Shivaji descendant hopes to breach Pawar fortress in Satara

Satara (M’rashtra), May 6 (PTI) One is a descendant of Chhatrapati Shivaji underplaying that emotive connection, the other a close aide of NCP founder Sharad Pawar banking on the formidable leader. Both contestants vying to be MP from Satara say what matters is the common person and ground level issues such as jobs and education.

The BJP has nominated Udayanraje Bhosale, the 13th descendant of the Maratha warrior king, to take on former MLA Shashikant Shinde of the NCP (Sharadchandra Pawar).

“I have never used Chhatrapati Shivaji’s name in elections or in my life. I live in a democracy. If I am from that family, so be it. But I live as a common man,” Bhosale told PTI.

According to Shinde, voters in Satara want a common person to represent them. He is banking on Sharad Pawar, who remains a formidable political player and is still capable of checkmating rivals.

“The new generation needs an industrial hub, better education, an IT park and health infrastructure. We have thousands of sugarcane farmers but the ban on sugar exports by the Centre has made them angry,” he told PTI.

The parliamentary constituency of Satara, which goes to the polls in the third phase on May 7, derives its name from the seven forts in the area. It covers the assembly segments of Karad North, Satara, Karada South, Patan, Koregaon, and Wai.

Satara has deep historical connections as the capital of the Maratha Empire under Shivaji. The region was also the site of many battles between the Marathas and foreign invaders.

The past is glorious, the present troubling.

Lack of jobs and poor industrial and educational infrastructure are key issues in the constituency, located in the state’s sugar belt. Thousands of youth move to Pune or Mumbai for better education, say locals.

In 2019, Bhosale won the Satara seat for the third consecutive time as a candidate of the undivided NCP, but resigned within a few months and joined the BJP. In the ensuing bypoll, he lost as a BJP candidate to NCP’s Shrinivas Patil.

A photo of a rain-soaked Sharad Pawar, then 79, delivering a speech in Satara was said to have ensured Patil’s victory and changed the NCP’s fortunes in the Maharashtra assembly polls that year.

A lot has changed since then, with NCP seeing a vertical split. One section of the original party, headed by Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, is now a constituent of the BJP-led Mahayuti, which also has a section of the original Shiv Sena.

Sharad Pawar, who now heads the NCP (SP), is a part of the opposition coalition Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA), which also comprises Shiv Sena (UBT) and Congress.

Traditionally, Satara was a Congress stronghold, with Shiv Sena representing the seat for a few years. After Sharad Pawar broke ranks with the Congress and formed the NCP in 1999, it became his party’s strong base.

Bhosale, currently a Rajya Sabha member, rejected the suggestion that the Sharad Pawar factor might be behind his past victories.

“I had won on my own strength and not on anyone’s name. You can ask anyone here. People ensured my victory because of the work I have done.”

He said he talks about the promises he has fulfilled when he meets people. “I have done work worth about Rs 10,000 crore in the last five years.”

The BJP’s campaign in Maharashtra has been led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who draws massive crowds, and Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

A few voters questioned the work done by NCP, expressing hope that Bhosale would be able to solve their issues. Many were reluctant to express their views. Most, however, agreed that Satara has a huge tourism potential due to its historical links though it is yet to be tapped.

According to Shinde, a lot of people from Satara are in the armed forces.

“In some villages, every household has a member in the military. But no fresh recruitment is happening in the police or military. Our boys have no option but to enrol as Agniveers (who serve in armed forces for four years). So people are angry.”

Shinde represented the Koregan assembly constituency in Sangli district in 2009 and 2014 as a member of the undivided NCP.

“I want to make a model city. People have seen my work in the state legislature. I have spoken about the injustice done to them. Now, I will try to raise their problems in Parliament,” he said.

The constituency has 16 candidates in the fray and 18.6 lakh eligible voters.

The Lok Sabha elections for the 48 seats in Maharashtra are being held in five phases from April 19 to May 20 and votes will be counted on June 4. Assembly polls are due in the state later this year.

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