Cong-NCP get bitter poll lessons in Maharashtra`s sugar belt
Pune: The drubbing Congress got in its traditional citadel of Western Maharashtra, where it failed to open its account in this Lok Sabha election, and drastically reduced victory margins for NCP, points to the fading glory of the two allies who drew their political power from this influential sugar belt which has a network of cooperatives.
While the saffron alliance rode high on the "Modi wave" in which Congress suffered the ignominy of failing to win a single seat in the region, the marginalisation of NCP was evident despite the four seats it struggled to win and a surprisingly massive drop in the victory margin of Supriya Sule in the Pawar pocket borough of Baramati.
Challenged by a relatively low-profile Mahadeo Jankar, fielded by Shiv Sena-BJP alliance, Sule managed to retain the seat by about 69,000 votes in sharp contrast to her 3.5 lakh winning margin in the 2009 election which spoke volumes about declining hold of the Pawars in the region.
For Congress, the defeat of Union Minister Pratik Patil in Sangli, from where the party had won all elections since the formation of Maharashtra in 1960, was equally symbolic of the slide it has witnessed in this region.
Western Maharashtra had been known as the Congress` impenetrable fortress with a mass base created by former Chief Minister Vasantdada Patil, a doyen of cooperative movement in the State.
Pratik, grandson of the late Vasantdada Patil, lost this party stronghold to BJP`s Sanjaykaka Patil by over 2.5 lakh votes.
The jolt Congress suffered in the defeat of Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde in Solapur, another party bastion, has shaken it to its roots.
NCP retained Satara seat with the victory of Udayan Raje Bhosale, a member of royal family who has always credited his success to his own personal popularity, debunking the party leadership publicly on many occasions in the past.
Even the Madha seat in Solapur district, won by NCP President Sharad Pawar in 2009, witnessed a keen tussle with the party nominee Vijay Singh Mohite Patil scraping through with a narrow margin.
If NCP chooses to take solace from the addition of one seat to its earlier tally of three in the last election in Western Maharashtra, it will also have to resign to the fact that its presence is now confined to an increasingly unresponsive sugar belt, putting a question mark on its status as a national party.
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