BJP wall crumbles under poll pressure

The BJP faces an embarrassing situation in its stronghold of north Maharashtra. First, a video clip showing one of its MPs in a compromising position with an unknown woman was widely circulated, a year after it was shot. Then last week, BJP workers showered blows on former MLA BS Patil at a public meeting in Amalner for allegedly using foul language about Smita Wagh, wife of Jalgaon district president Uday Wagh.

Another bad news came from neighbouring Dhule and Nandurbar districts where the BJP faces intense infighting. Jalgaon is the only district in Maharashtra where the BJP has been winning both the Lok Sabha seats since 1999.

Such is the party’s influence over the voters there that when both of its then MPs, MK Patil (Erandol) and YG Mahajan (Jalgaon) were expelled from Lok Sabha in 2005 for taking money for asking questions the BJP managed to retain Jalgaon in spite of heavy backlash from the voters in the by-election in 2007. After delimitation the constituencies were realigned as Jalgaon and Raver. BJP won both in 2009.

In this election season, the infighting in BJP has been intense in Jalgaon since the party replaced Smita Wagh with Unmesh Patil, an MLA from Chalisgaon. Wagh called it a cold-blooded murder. The assault on BS Patil by Wagh’s supporters took place in front of water resources minister Girish Mahajan, who has rapidly emerged as the new power centre in Jalgaon. This has left BJP loyalists dejected.

They are not in a mood to campaign wholeheartedly for the party since Unmesh is seen as an ‘outsider’ who defected to the BJP from Congress five years ago. Meanwhile, Union minister of state for defence Subhash Bhamre faces a challenge from BJP rebel Anil Gote and an aggressive young Congress candidate, Kunal Patil, in Dhule.

Gote is not willing to give up his fight against Bhamre. The Muslim voters in this constituency could be the deciding factor. In Nandurbar, sitting BJP MP Heena Gavit is paying for having filed cases against some Maratha protestors under the stringent Atrocities Act when the agitation for reservation was at its peak. Now, the Maratha-majority villages have boycotted her. She is unable to campaign in these areas.

On the contrary, the Congress looks united. It witnessed some dissent when former MP Manikrao Gavit raised a rebellion flag after the party chose his opponent KC Padvi as a candidate instead of his son.

However, Gavit soon announced a truce after the party assured him that his son will be fielded in the Assembly election. A setback in north Maharashtra will drastically bring down the BJP’s graph.

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