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Home > Mumbai > Mumbai News > Article > Lok Sabha Elections 2024 Maratha anger not opponent is what Pankaja needs to worry about experts say

Lok Sabha Elections 2024: 'Maratha anger, not opponent, is what Pankaja needs to worry about,' experts say

Updated on: 29 April,2024 10:24 PM IST  |  Mumbai
Sameer Surve | sameer.surve@mid-day.com

BJP candidate will have to rely on OBCs, Muslims in constituency where Mundes have reigned for two decades

Lok Sabha Elections 2024: 'Maratha anger, not opponent, is what Pankaja needs to worry about,' experts say

Bajrang Sonawane (left) and Pankaja Munde (right) are pitted against each other/ Facebook

BJP leader Pankaja Munde is contesting the Lok Sabha elections 2024 from her home turf, Beed, in Marathwada. Though the Mundes are the strongest political family in the region, they are facing an uphill battle this time as the Maratha and Dhangar reservation issue can upset the apple cart.
The leader’s sister Dr Pritam Munde defeated the undivided NCP candidate Bajrang Sonwane by 1.69 lakh votes in the 2019 Lok Sabha election after securing 6.78 lakh votes.


Sonwane—the chairman of a cooperative sugar factory in the region—is in the fray as the NCP (SP)’s candidate.


A senior local journalist said Sonwane had mastered the art of making a cooperative sugar mill profitable. “The Munde family runs a cooperative sugar mill, but it is seeing huge losses. Sonwane will benefit from the Maratha reservation matter. There are some issues regarding quotas for Dhangars and other OBC communities, but they are not as pressing as that of Maratha reservation,” he added.


Datta Deshmukh, a political observer said, “The opponent is not a big challenge for Pankaja Munde. Her main challenge is Maratha reservation.”

He added that other castes had been upset with the Mundes, but the Maratha reservation issue was “their only concern”. “She has a good network at the booth level, which will help her during the elections,” Deshmukh added.

Manoj Satpute, another journalist working in Beed, also highlighted that the Maratha reservation matter could impact Munde’s performance. “This is the first time we have witnessed a split in the community over reservation during an election in Beed,” he said.

Dhangar anger

When this reporter visited the village of Shindewadi in Beed district, which is dominated by the Dhangar community, he learnt that the community was upset with the Mahayuti government. Baburao Shendge, a resident, said, “We are upset with the BJP as it has not kept its word about reservation. We will show our strength through the ballot.”

The Dhangar community in Maharashtra, which has been traditionally engaged in sheep grazing, has been getting reservation as a nomadic tribe in the state but it is demanding scheduled tribe status. According to data available, the community accounts for around 50,000 to 60,000 votes, so it may not have as large an impact as Marathas at the polling booth, another senior journalist said.

Ghansham Bhole of Khandvi village, a Maratha, said, “Our long-standing demand [reservation] has not yet not been fulfilled. We expected the government to keep its promise.”

According to reports, Maratha protesters were the most aggressive in the Beed constituency. The homes of legislators Prakash Solanke and Sandeep Kshirsagar—from the Ajit and Sharad Pawar factions respectively—were torched amid the protest.  The total number of voters in the constituency is about 21 lakh. Of these, 33 to 35 per cent are Marathas while the percentage of the OBC voters is around 28 to 29 per cent. Muslims and Dalits account for 9 to 10 per cent and 12 to 13 per cent of the electorate respectively.

Importance of OBCs

This time, Pankaja Munde depends on OBC voters given the Maratha situation. However, the community is upset with her to some extent as she had stayed clear from OBC Elgaar Melava events, which were held since 2023 to protest the state government’s decision to give Kunbi certificates to Marathas.
The BJP leader’s father Gopinath Munde was elected from Beed Lok Sabha constituency in 2009 and 2014.  After Munde passed away during his second term, Pritam Munde contested the by-election and won. This time, the party picked her sister as its candidate. Pankaja Munde was a minister from 2014 to 2019. She contested the Assembly election from the Parli seat in 2019 but lost to her then-estranged cousin Dhananjay Munde.

Muslim votes

Muslims account for around 10 to 11 per cent of voters in the constituency. In Beed, a large number of Muslim voters used to favour the late Gopinath Munde, but their votes are now divided between the BJP and NCP.

Mahayuti power

Five of the six Assembly segments in the Beed Lok Sabha constituency are represented by Mahayuti leaders. Georai’s Laxman Pawar and Kaij’s Namita Mundada belong to the BJP. Majalgoan’s Prakash Solanki, Ashti’s Balasaheb Ajabe and Parli’s Dhananjay Munde belong to the NCP. While Sandeep Kshirsagar of Beed belongs to the NCP (SP).

Cousins united

Dhananjay Munde has been actively participating in his cousin’s campaign. Observers claim he has good connections on the ground. The combined total of votes of Pankaja and Dhananjay Munde in the 2019 Assembly election in Parli constituency was 2.13 lakh. Even after taking into account the possible impact of the Maratha movement on her performance, this figure is significant, observers added.

Jarange, Munde share stage

Maratha reservation activist Manoj Jarange Patil and Pankaja Munde shared a stage on Sunday during a programme organised at Sirasmarg. The body language of both spoke a lot about Maratha resentment. Recently, Jarange appealed to Marathas to refrain from electing particular candidates.

Candidate’s strengths and weaknesses

Pankaja Munde, BJP candidate

Advantages

· Known as an OBC leader, she enjoys the Vanjari community’s support

· Muslims can vote for her

· Receiving good support from MLA Dhananjay Munde, who is well-connected

· BJP has good ground-level connect

· Good poll management

Disadvantages

· Maratha voters are upset with BJP and Munde will face their anger

· No large industries have been established in district in past decade

· Ahmednagar-Beed-Parli railway line, a long-pending demand of locals, hasn’t come up

· After her Assembly poll defeat, connections with the people were reduced.

· Unable to make profits in the sugar Mill and sector.

Bajrang Sonwane, NCP (SP) candidate

Advantages

· Has a good network within the cooperative movement. Successfully running two sugar mills, indicating his management and planning skills

· Voters sympathise with Sharad Pawar and Uddhav Thackeray

· Marathas, Dalits and Muslims are likely to support him

· Anti-incumbency against Mundes as the family has ruled the district for more than two decades

Disadvantages

· Lacks good booth-level network in the district

· Didn’t maintain ground-level connection defeat in last general election

· Lacks district-level leader who can impress voters

· Not good at election management

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