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eknath shinde_005

Absence Of Guardian Ministers In Chief Minister’s Drought-Relief Meet Face Opposition Ire

 The absence of state agriculture minister Dhananjay Munde, along with five other guardian ministers in a meeting called by the Maharashtra chief minister Eknath Shinde, to review the prevailing drought-like-situation in Marathwada region of Maharashtra, has attracted criticism from the Opposition parties. Only two of the eight guardian ministers from the worst-affected Marathwada region, were present at the meeting to discuss drought relief at a time when the state is reeling under a severe water crisis with 2973 villagers and 7671 hamlets dependent on 3692 tankers for their water supply. When Sharad Pawar termed the absence of agriculture minister as reflection of a “lack of seriousness” on the part of the government, deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis retorted back that the Opposition was being “too negative” and politicising the drought-scenario prevailing in state. NCP (Sharad faction) party president Jayant Patil accused the government of still being in election mode while senior Congress leader Balasaheb Thorat pointed out that relief work was affected as guardian ministers were holidaying abroad. With the voting process having wrapped up in the state on May 20, state political leaders have finally started paying attention to the water crisis looming large in the state. Incidentally, though the heat wave and water crises was very much prevalent in Maharashtra during the election process, none of the political parties chose to raise this issue in the election process. Instead the polls in Maharashtra were fought on issues like party rebellion and betrayal. Sharad Pawar has demanded a relief for farmers starting with fodder camps for cattle, restructuring crop loans, freeze on loan recovery processes, relief in exam fee and electricity as drought-relief measures.
asauddin

Glaring Omission of Muslim Candidates In Maharashtra Stands Out, AIMIM To Contest Four Seats

On the last day of filing nominations on May 3, the All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) surprised all by putting up a candidate in Mumbai North Central constituency to make up for failure of major political parties to nominate even a single Muslim candidate among the 48 seats in Maharashtra. AIMIM even invited Congress leader Arif Naseem Khan to join the party and contest on AIMIM ticket but he refused. The AIMIM,which has no tie-ups in state either with the INDI alliance group or with the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi(VBA) has now put up four candidates across the state including in Aurangabad, Osmanabad, Pune and Mumbai North Central. Currently, Maharashtra has only one Muslim Member of Parliament, AIMIM’S Imtiaz Jaleel out of the 48 seats and about 10 legislators out of the 288 MLA’s seats in the state. There is much anger expressed among the 11.56% Muslim population in Maharashtra against the Maha Vikas Aghadi particularly the Congress for their failure to nominate even a single candidate from its tally of 17 candidates from the 1.3 crore Muslim community in state. The party failed to act even when its own senior leader and aspirant, ex-cabinet minister Arif Nasim Khan resigned from key party posts after it failed to nominate him from the North Central constituency. The Samajwadi Party, which enjoys a support base among the Muslim community, is upset with the Congress for not allocating even two seats for it in the state. Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge chose to blame it on three-party coalition compulsions.
rana adsul

Ranas Vs Adsuls: Fight At Amravati Is Far From Over

It’s the husband-wife team of Navneet-Ravi Rana vs the father-son team of Anandrao- Abhijit Adsul playing out in Amravati. Both the Ranas and Adsuls have one leg in the state and Centre. While Ravi Raja represented Badnera assembly constituency for three terms from 2009 onwards, his wife Navneet is the sitting MP from Amravati. A similar arrangement had been worked out between the Adsuls — father Anantrao Adsul was the MP from Amravati from 1996 to 2014 while son captain Abhijeet Adsul was an MLA from Daryapur constituency from 2009.Things changed when Naveet Rana defeated the five-term MP Adsul in 2019. The equations changed further in 2024 when both of them found themselves vying for the same Amravati seat from the same Mahayuti alliance with Ranas pitching from the BJP and Adsuls from the Eknath Shinde faction of the Shiv Sena. Ravi Rana famously quipped in a rally that not only will he get a ticket from Amravati but he will also get the Adsul’s to campaign for his wife. Thanks to their clout, Navneet Rana did manage to get the ticket from Mahayuti with the state BJP welcoming her at midnight. However, the arrogance of Rana’s is such that Navneet’s nomination from the BJP was opposed by BJP’s own cadres, as also from the independent parties like Bachchu Kadu of Prahar Party, who put up a candidate against her. To cool things down, the husband-wife duo visited Adsul’s residence. But, senior Adsul seems adamant on opposing Rana. Looks like the Amravati feud promises to hold more surprises.
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Sharad Pawar Leverages Family Rifts In Various Seats To Take On BJP

Sharad Pawar may be bearing the brunt of his powerful family torn apart over politics, but he too is not averse to exploiting familial relationships for electoral gains in Lok Sabha 2024 polls.  The most prominent example is that of Kolhapur’s Shrimant Shahu Chhatrapati Maharaj. When the politically ambitious Yuvraj Sambhaji Raje Chhatrapati was all geared up to fire for Lok Sabha polls through his Swarajya Sanghatana, Pawar played a masterstroke. He met and convinced his father Shahu Maharaj to contest from Kolhapur, forcing the son to retreat thus eclipsing himself completely out of the state poll scene. Similarly, at Madha constituency, he thoroughly exploited the rift between the BJP’s Ranjitsinh Naik-Nimbalkar with his politically influential uncle Ramraje Naik-Nimbalkar, which got the senior Nimbalkar to demand a change of candidate from the BJP. When the party refused, Pawar got key aspirant Dhairyashil Mohite-Patil to quit the BJP and gave him a NCP ticket for Madha constituency. Ajit Pawar’s chief aide Sunil Tatkare, who also took on senior Pawar along with Ajit, found his brother Anil Tatkare in Sharad Pawar’s faction of NCP as state vice-president. Ajit himself has been complaining that the entire Pawar clan has stepped out to campaign against him including those who never step out for it.  At 83, Senior Pawar is putting all his skills to play to put his opponents on the backfoot.
Congress bjp flags

In Maharashtra Angry Cadres Fail To Turn Up For Coalition Candidates Campaign In Many Constituencies

Coalition politics has come under major strain in this election, with party workers either boycotting or refusing to campaign for candidates of coalition partners. The most prominent example is clearly Sangli, where Congress workers are clearly out in support of rebel candidate VIshal Patil and Uddhav Thackeray had to urge his coalition partner to urge the Congress rebels to withdraw, and workers to campaign for his official candidate, Chandrahar Patil. Congress workers were also initially missing in action from Mumbai South Central constituency, where Congress city president Varsha Gaikwad was keen to contest but Uddhav Thackeray got the seat for his aide Anil Desai. This trend isn’t restricted to any particular party and is evident across many constituencies. Chief minister’s son Shrikant Shinde, too has been struggling to get workers of his coalition partners, the BJP, to campaign for him in his Kalyan constituency. Reportedly, Ajit Pawar’s workers were missing even during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s maiden campaign rally at Chandrapur.  Ajit Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party fresh inductee and candidate from Dharashiv, Archana Patil, whose husband is a BJP legislator, wondered why she had to work for the growth of the NCP over that of her parent party, the BJP, where her husband Rana Jagjitsinh Patil continues to be legislator.  She was made to change her party from BJP to NCP to accommodate seat sharing adjustments. An uproar later, Ajit Pawar’s face and symbol was on her campaign posters. These poll results could well be a determiner about the way coalition politics could play out in the future.
maha party

Size Matters: In Maharashtra Smaller Parties Get Pushed Out Of The Electoral Fray

Multiple splits and alliances have resulted in marginalisation of smaller parties and outfits from Maharashtra in the Lok Sabha 2024 polls. There has been such a scramble for a piece of the Lok Sabha pie from the two major coalitions in Maharashtra, namely the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi or the Mahayuti alliance, that smaller outfits have been completely pushed out of the electoral fray.  Parties like the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, Janata Dal, the Peasants and Workers Party, Republican Party of India(A), Samajwadi Party as also the others like the Communist Party of India have failed to find even a single seat from the major coalitions for the 48 in Maharashtra. With the stakes being so high in Lok Sabha 2024, no one seems to have the political space to offer to smaller parties even a single seat. The bigger parties have said it will accommodate the smaller parties in the October 2024 Assembly polls. The only exception seems to be Prakash Ambedar’s Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi that has put up candidates independently in around 20 constituencies after its seat-sharing talks with the MVA failed. At an individual level, the only exception seems to be Mahadeo Jankar, from the Rashtriya Samaj Paksh, who managed to contest from Parbhani seat with support from the BJP-led Mahayuti alliance. Bachu Kadu of the Prahar Janshakti Party did put up a candidate in Amravati to spite the sitting MP Navneet Rana standing on a BJP ticket. But he is doing this independently without any support.  
Ambedkar ramdas

Dalits Miss Out Seats In The Post-Split Maharashtra Scenario

Dalits, who constitute 11.81 % of Maharashtra’s population, have failed to find space in the seat-sharing arrangements from either of the political coalitions in the post-split Maharashtra political scenario. Ramdas Athawale, the erstwhile Union minister for social justice and empowerment, and probably the most prominent Dalit face in the country, has failed to bag even a single seat for his party. Athawale revealed that he has been promised cabinet ministership in the forthcoming Maharashtra government, posts in a few corporations in and assured seats in the forthcoming assembly elections. He also revealed that his supporters had asked him to stay put in the ruling NDA alliance since being in power had benefited his party. He is also cool right now as his own Rajya Sabha term continues till 2026. Ambedkar did rue that despite being an old alliance partner with the BJP-led Mahayuti coalition, those who came in much later like the Eknath Shinde received much better terms than him. Athawale’s pitch for Shirdi constituency had to be given up to accommodate the seat for Eknath Shinde-supporter sitting MP Sadashiv Lokhande. He did admit that deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had reached out to him to cool tempers after he publicly expressed his displeasure. The other senior Dalit leader, Prakash Ambedkar has already put up 20 candidates from his Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi. This time around though Ambedkar has decided to put up candidates from all communities and not necessarily only from the Dalit community.
I.N.D.I

Congress Cuts A Sorry Figure In Maharashtra Seat Distribution

The Congress seems to have become a sacrificial lamb at the altar of coalition politics in the Maharashtra seat-sharing adjustments. Though the Congress got 17 seats in the state, most of the tickets were from seats where the Opposition is on a stronger footing. Take Mumbai, here, Congress has got two seats — Mumbai North and Mumbai North Central — both of which are BJP strongholds. It failed to get a seat for its own Mumbai Congress chief Varsha Gaikwad, a prominent Dalit face, who was keen to represent the Dharavi belt from the Mumbai South Central seat, which her father had represented. Not surprisingly, Varsha Gaikwad has gone incommunicado with the media. The Congress also had to let go of its claim for Sangli and Bhiwandi seats, where Uddhav Thackeray and Sharad Pawar’s cadres simply went ahead and claimed it without even bothering to ask. The ex-state youth Congress chief Vishwajeet Kadam’s repeated Delhi trips failed to cut any ice. Though the I.N.D.I.A front and its Maharashtra leg, the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) managed to put up a united front while declaring its candidates, the rumblings didn’t take long to come out. “We don’t know how we are going to face our cadres and get them to work in this election. They were so upbeat about taking on Modi on our turf and suddenly we seem to be out of constituencies where we were strong and stuck up with seats where we stand no chance. There is large-scale frustration and anger among our cadres,” admitted a Congress office-bearer.
bjp maharashtra

Indisciplined Chaos Marks Seat Sharing Process In Maharashtra

A fluid situation ensues in Maharashtra’s Lok Sabha 2024 polls with disruption and chaos marking the seat-sharing scenario even within the ruling Mahayuti alliance led by the BJP known for its disciplined, well-oiled election machinery. The BJP, which had successfully split both the Shiv Sena and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), with an eye on the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, is now scrambling to even finalise candidates, quell internal rebellion with just a month to go for the polls. The prestigious South Mumbai constituency is the most prominent case in point. Initially this richie-rich constituency was almost granted to state legislative assembly speaker Rahul Narwekar, and he had even started campaigning. Soon afterwards though, the seat got tossed around to contenders like Milind Deora, who has already been nominated to the Rajya Sabha and even to Bala Nandgaonkar from the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena. Negotiations with Raj Thackeray and BJP moved from talks of getting him to merge his party with the BJP (he refused), to offering him three LS seats including Mumbai South and finally ended up with the MNS refusing to put up any candidates in this LS election. It was only after Raj Thackeray’s much-hyped Delhi trip visit to meet Amit Shah, that realization seems to have dawned on BJP that the MNS’s north-Indian agitation won’t go down with its voters in the North. There is also still no clarity on whether the BJP plans to retain or clip the wings of Poonam Mahajan, its Mumbai North Central candidate nor is there clarity on the Mumbai North West seat which is being reportedly being eyed by the likes of Govinda, Swara Bhaskar and even Raj Babbar.
congress_007

After Bihar & Punjab Congress To Go In For Friendly Fights In Maharashtra Too

Akin to its strategy in Bihar and Punjab, the Congress has also decided to have friendly fights against its fellow I.N.D.I.A front constituents in Maharashtra as well. The Congress may put up candidates in about six seats against its own alliance partners, particularly the Shiv Sena like they are doing against the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Bihar and Punjab. These fights are likely to play out in places like Sangli, Bhiwandi, Mumbai North West and Mumbai South Central where the party is convinced it has a strong standing. Congress is under pressure from its aspirants like Sanjay Nirupam who is said to be exploring other parties to fight from Mumbai North West constituency. Congress’ Mumbai party chief Varsha Gaikwad, who represents Dharavi assembly constituency, also is said to be keen to contest from Mumbai South Central. The party is also upset with the snub from Uddhav Thackeray, who unilaterally declared candidatures for five seats, even before the Maha Vikas Aghadi had officially decided on it. The Sangli seat has particularly become a bone of contention between the alliance partners and key Congress aspirant Vishal Patil dashing off to complain to the high command against Thackeray’s high-handedness. However things turned sour when Uddhav refused to budge and Sena’s Sanjay Raut even underplayed the development convinced that Congress won’t let seat-sharing affect their alliance.
eknath shinde_004

Unrest, Anxiety Mars Shinde Camp As CM Struggles To Retain Tickets For His Sitting MP's

Maharashtra chief minister Eknath Shinde seems cornered in his own Mahayuti alliance by the BJP. There is much unrest, fear and anxiety in the Shiv Sena camp (Shinde faction) as he struggles to even accommodate his own elected Parliamentarians. Thirteen of the total 18 MPs from the united Shiv Sena had broken away with Shinde post to form the government along with the BJP in June 2022. But, restlessness prevails as the BJP seems to be eyeing their seats citing the BJP’s winnability factor based on surveys. Shinde has apparently been directed to change six of his sitting MP’s now following negative reports in their surveys. Shinde’s lieutenant Sanjay Shirsat clearly echoed the anger in his camp when he stated that surveys often proved to be wrong earlier and cannot be the determining factor for granting tickets. It is getting more personal for Shinde as the BJP has not spared Shinde’s own son, Dr Shrikant Shinde, a two-term MP from Kalyan.  There are talks of asking him to contest from Thane. Shinde is contending with midnight protests at his official CM residence by Nashik’s sitting MP Hemant Godse.  Ticket distribution has created unrest in the Shinde camp who reckon that the BJP could adopt an even more rigid stance in Maharashtra’s assembly ticket distribution process, once they achieve their goal of returning to power in the Centre in June 2024.
Devendra Fadnavis_003

Devendra Fadnavis, BJP’s Trouble Shooter In Maharashtra

Maharashtra’s deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis is emerging as the BJP lone firefighter… dousing the fires created by the announcements of candidatures of 20 of the total 48 seats in Maharashtra. The BJP in the state is busy molly-coddling sitting MP’s, aspirants, party supporters and various rival factions. It is as if the BJP’s high stakes campaign in Maharashtra is riding high entirely on the shoulders of Fadnavis. Fadnavis personally visited the Kandivli residence of Gopal Shetty, to quell anger among Shetty’s supporters after the two time MP from Mumbai North constituency, was asked to vacate the seat in favour of Union commerce minister Piyush Goyal. He also met up with senior leader, Harshavardhan Patil, who is upset at the prospect of having to campaign for the wife of his bete noire, Ajit Pawar from Baramati constituency. The Madha constituency has already been on the boil despite Fadnavis deputing Girish Mahajan to quell tempers there. Then there are simmering issues like sitting MP from Satara, Udayanraje Bhonsale rushing to New Delhi to prevent the seat going to his cousin Shivendraraje Bhonsale after Devendra’s intervention failed. Fadnavis also had to personally intervene to cool down tempers with the Ranas of Amravati — Ravi and Navneet — who are keen to get re-nominated on a BJP ticket. Beyond this, Fadnavis is also spearheading alliance talks with Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena.
Uddhav_005

Uddhav Thackeray: The Lone Ranger On A Mission Mode

Uddhav Thackeray seems to be a man on a mission. Not only was he the first one to kickstart his party’s campaign but also the one to jump the gun by announcing names of four candidates from his party even as the seat sharing talks were in progress among  alliance partners of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA). Uddhav, who emerged the worst affected post the split of his party, seems on a mission to avenge the betrayal. He has already addressed 23 campaign meetings and has planned more meetings in the regions of Konkan, West and North Maharashtra as also Marathwada. Most of his meetings are attracting huge crowds and this has already caused discomfiture in the BJP camp, which is in alliance talks with his cousin Raj Thackeray to undercut the strong sympathy Uddhav seems to enjoy in the state. When Uddhav announced the candidature of Amol Kirtikar for Mumbai North-West constituency it drew sharp retorts Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam as he was keen to contest from that constituency.  Talk of not sticking to coalition dharma failed to deter him and he went ahead with more declarations. He was also the first party in MVA to declare co-ordinators for 23 Parliamentary constituencies at a juncture when the MVA had not even finalised on the number of seats within the MVA coalition. Similarly, he went ahead and announced his candidature for the Sangli constituency and Congress was left mumbling that they are still in the reckoning for this seat.
Maha Seat sharing_002

Seat Sharing In Maharashtra Turns Into Khichdi Of Confusion

Maharashtra has muddled into chaos as the seat sharing process gets underway. Incidents of threats of rebellion, secret midnight parlays, allegations and accusations, bickerings, shifting to different parties and symbols have become the order of the day. The partial announcement of candidatures by parties has already muddled the coalition politics creating more chaos across the political spectrum in Maharashtra. So far, the BJP has announced candidatures for 20 of the 48 seats in Maharashtra, the Congress for 7, Uddhav Thackeray’s faction of Shiv Sena for 4, while the rest are still groping in the dark. The BJP’s announcements have been greeted with threats of rebellion and even demands for changing of candidate at Madha constituency by BJP veteran leader Naik Nimbalkar. Girish Mahajan, who was deputed there to cool down tempers with the influential Vijaysinh Mohite-Patil clan, was blocked from entering the area. At Raver constituency, the re-nomination of sitting MP Raksha Khadse led to dissenting voices from her own party members and family. Though a straight fight with sister-in-law Rohini Khadse, has been averted for now, the bad blood threatens to impact the BJP’s chances here. Jalgaon nominee Smita Wagh is also facing opposition. The candidature of sitting MP from Amravati, Navneet Rana, aligned to Devendra Fadnavis camp, is also stuck due to strong opposition by her Sena counterpart Anantrao Adusul. To add to the confusion Manoj Jarange Patil is planning to field Maratha candidates. Even the Dhangar community has demanded adequate representation failing which they have threatened to put up their own candidates. Even individual rebels like Vasant More, ex-MNS leader from Pune, are planning to play spoilsport.
Prakash ambedkar_003

Prakash Ambedkar’s List Of Demands Irks Maha Vikas Aghadi

Prakash Ambedkar’s ever-changing list of demands seems to have put Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) in a fix. His constant shuffling stances and barbs means that no one seems to have a clue on what to expect from him. Though his party has no Member of Parliament, he insisted on 12 out of the 48 seats for his Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) in Maharashtra, equivalent to the rest of the alliance partners, namely Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party, Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena and the Congress. Then he demanded that the MVA parties give a written undertaking that they will not align with the BJP post elections. Thereafter, he insisted that he would hold seat sharing talks only with the Congress’s leadership and refused to attend the MVA rally at Baramati. As if all this was not enough, Ambedkar spares no chance to pull down the MVA observing how there was a deadlock on seat sharing of 15 seats and called them lazy for not hurrying up in resolving it as poll announcements dates neared. He further highlighted inter-party rifts by pointing out that Congress was upset with Uddhav’s insistence on 18 seats beyond terming Sanjay Raut a liar. It may be recalled that Ambedkar contesting 2019 LS polls almost alone saw VBA garnering 4.6% vote share and this led to the defeat of many senior Congress senior leaders. To avoid a repeat in 2024 many in MVA are quietly accepting his barbs on their chin.
amit shah_005

BJP Emerges Big Brother In Seat Sharing Offers Shinde-Pawar Rebels To Contest On Lotus Symbol

The BJP has emerged as a big bossy brother in the ticket distribution process in Maharashtra insisting on cornering almost 66 % of the seats in Maharashtra — it wants 32 tickets of the total 48 seats. While Eknath Shinde may get 10 tickets instead of 18 that he had demanded, Ajit Pawar could get only 4 instead of 10 that he has sought. This squeezes out the aspirations of those who came in with Eknath Shinde and Ajit Pawar hoping for better prospects and gives a free hand for criticism from the opposition. Both the rebel wings are not giving it up easily and instead putting up a strong perception fight in the media via statements from leaders like Ramdas Kadam and Chhagan Bhujbal. While Kadam, who is upset about BJP fiddling in his son’s Dapoli constituency, stated that the BJP cannot be growing at the cost of others, Bhujbal insisted that the NCP should get tickets on par with the Shinde’s Sena. Both have been asked by Amit Shah to be practical in their demands and focus instead on candidates having winning potential. A new compromise strategy is being floated to accommodate these aspirants from Shinde and Pawar factions — the BJP wants a few to contest on the lotus symbol. This has sparked sarcastic comments from the Congress leader Nana Patole commenting that BJP is now stealing candidates from other parties since they don’t have their own. This is also believed to be a strategy to weaken the rebel parties and quell any prospect of rebellion, post the elections.
Nitin Gadkari

Uddhav Dares Gadkari To Quit BJP And Fight Elections, Promises Support

Splinter Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray dared Gadkari to quit BJP and contest the 2024 Lok Sabha polls on his own to kick out the arrogance of the central leadership, if his party fails to give him a ticket. Uddhav promised full support from his Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) alliance for his victory. Though the BJP has announced over 195 candidates for states like UP, MP, Gujarat, Rajasthan and West Bengal. The second list wherein states like Maharashtra will figure is yet not out. But, rumour mills are doing overtime that Gadkari could be dropped. This is fuelled further by statements of the likes of Sanjay Raut, who allege that there is a conspiracy to sideline Gadkari to avoid a scenario of him emerging as a consensus PM candidate were the BJP coalition to end up with a lower tally of 220-225 seats. There is strong simmering discontent within the BJP which is abuzz with the talks of majority of the 14 sitting MP’s from Maharashtra of Shiv Sena being dropped to accommodate ‘winnable’ candidates from within BJP or from other coalition partners, to strengthen Modi’s fight for third term. Senior BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis did state that Gakari’s candidature could be announced once a decision on list of Maharashtra’s candidates was completed. Gadkari enjoys strong support across the political spectrum. The simmering discontent within the BJP and the Mahayuti alliance is also evident from the fact that seats sharing in Maharashtra could not be completed despite personal visit and intervention by home minister Amit Shah.
Maratha reservation

Maratha Agitation Fails To Consolidate Vote Bank Behind Any Particular Political Block

As the Maratha agitation in Maharashtra may have fizzled out, the political knives are out between Devendra Fadnavis and Sharad Pawar. The agitation was scuttled in the backdrop of allegations of financial kickbacks, secret midnight meetings and even conspiracies to kill Manoj Jarange Patil. While the BJP has fired all guns against the original Maratha strongman Sharad Pawar, accusing him of being the mastermind behind the agitation and even hinting that the conspiracy was managed from Rajesh Tope’s sugar factory, Sharad Pawar has dared that he has nothing to fear and that no phone calls were made from him. Tope admitted that he had simply provided food and water to agitators from his constituency. Jarange Patil has hinted that leaders from all political parties would stand exposed in the SIT investigation, sparking speculation that the agitation had the tacit support from blocks within both the ruling and the opposition fronts. The Eknath Shinde government has been accused of deliberately playing footsie with Jarange Pati. All parties may have unanimously voted for 10% reservation for the Marathas in a special session of the legislature on February 20, 2024, but the aftermath of the agitation has led to a bitter fall out between parties eyeing the politically powerful bloc of Maratha vote bank. This vote bank continues to be splintered across parties and political machinations have failed to consolidate it behind any particular political block.
Narayan Rane_002

Has The Entry Of Ashok Chavan Into The BJP Fold Put Narayan Rane In A Spot?

The entry of one ex-chief minister Ashok Chavan into the BJP fold seems to have landed another ex-CM, Narayan Rane on a sticky wicket. It has upset Rane’s plan to take the easier option of taking the Rajya Sabha route to Parliament. Instead, he is now forced to contest for Lok Sabha elections from the Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg constituency, from where his elder son Nilesh Rane lost twice in a row in 2014 and 2019 to Uddhav Sena’s Vinayak Raut. Raut has now developed a strong local base and presents a formidable challenge here. The Rane’s continue to share bitter relations with the Uddhav’s Sena. Elder son, Nilesh Rane recently, issued threats to Uddhav’s legislator Bhaskar Jadhav from the dais of a public rally following a riotous situation between warring party workers with stone pelting leading and police lathi-charging and tear gases being used. Also, the Uddhav Sena faction has not forgiven Rane for his rebellion in 2005 and is gunning to defeat him. Rane, who is a party hopper, having moved on from the Shiv Sena to the Congress before joining the BJP with his two sons, is facing competition for his ticket from his own alliance partners. His constituency is being eyed by Eknath Shinde supporter, industries minister Uday Samant for his brother Kiran Samant, who has already started campaigning there. The Konkan belt had always been a Shiv Sena stronghold which the BJP is keen to get Rane to spearhead its party into the region.  
Eknath manoj

Third Attempt For Maratha Reservations Could Boomerang

The vexed reservation of the Maratha community, which the Maharashtra chief minister Eknath Shinde was hoping to capitalise on, doesn’t seem to have gone well. Not only did it fail to halt the fast by Maratha leader Manoj Jarange Patil, it further upset him and he stated that the community had felt let down by the CM. “It clearly shows that the government doesn’t care much for the demands of the Maratha community,” he rued before announcing further intensification of his hunger strike and refusing treatment. The reservation issue has already been creating much unrest in the Marathwada region with bandhs and protests being part of the agitations playing out there. Analysts view the Maratha reservation issue as a box of false promises brought out before every election to woo the 28% Maratha electorate that is spread across all political parties. This was the third attempt by the Maharashtra government to promise reservations for the Maratha community, with earlier attempts being made by the Devendra Fadnavis government in 2018 and the Prithviraj Chauhan government in 2014. Each time the decisions were stuck down by the courts. Even Shinde is aware of this challenge and kept emphasising that this time, it should stand legal scrutiny, backed up as it was with data from an empirical survey from 1,58,20,264 households using computer assisted personal interviews. Even Jarange Patil is not convinced if it will stand in courts, and this fear could actually boomerang in the Lok Sabha polls.
Congress meet

Split Averted In Maharashtra Congress For Now

Unlike the splits in the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Shiv Sena, a vertical split has been averted in the Congress party for now, despite the exit of former chief minister Ashok Chavan. The exit of Chavan has failed to create a fissure in the Congress or even lead to an exodus unlike the exit of Eknath Shinde or Ajit Pawar from their respective parties. The exit of Congress leaders like Chavan, Baba Siddiqui and even Milind Deora has led to weakening of the Congress position in the ongoing seat-distribution talks within the I.N.D.I.A bloc despite holding the highest tally of 42 legislators in the Maha Vikas Aghadi; Sharad Pawar is left with 13 legislators and Uddhav Thackeray with 16 legislators. Soon after Chavan’s formal resignation, AlCC Maharashtra Congress in-charge Ramesh Chennithala launched into a damage control mode and called upon NCP supremo Sharad Pawar along with senior Congress leaders. He also led another delegation to Uddhav Thacekray to take stock of the situation. Pawar, who has been leading the charge of the I.N.D.I.A bloc, is said to have spoken to the Congress legislators and taken stock of the situation. Anjali Ambedkar, wife of Prakash Ambedkar from the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi, had noted how their seat-sharing negotiators from the Congress side, be it Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil in 2019 or Ashok Chavan in 2024, had gone the BJP way. Who do we negotiate with in such a situation, she snubbed in a tweet.
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Shinde-Fadnavis Come Under Fire Over Shooting Incidents, Opposition Alleges Goonda Raj

Shooting incidents in Maharashtra have brought the Maharashtra government under fire and raised a chorus for the resignation of home minister Devendra Fadnavis. The killing of close aide of Uddhav Thackeray, Abhishek Ghosalkar during a Facebook live as also the shooting in a Ulhasnagar police station by a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator have raised questions of the law and order situation in the state. Parallels are being drawn with Bihar and the Eknath Shinde-led Mahayuti government has come under fire especially from Uddhav Thackeray’s firebrand Sanjay Raut who has demanded implementation of President’s rule in the state. Raut has also been vocal against his bete noire chief minister Eknath Shinde for ‘goonda raj’ and ‘mafia raj’ in Maharashtra. He supported his claims by releasing pictures of gangsters along with Shinde at the state secretariat. The Uddhav faction of the Sena, which is under fire from various agencies, has upped the ante against Shinde and Fadnavis, who it believes are leading the charge to poach their legislators with threats of cases and other means to get them into the ruling alliance. A BJP internal survey in Maharashtra has been unflattering for the party; hence the overdrive to poach political support from other parties. These rising incidents of violence needs to be viewed from the lens of the escalating political tensions amidst the coerced realignments resulting in bitter local equations in the run-up to the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections.
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It’s Advantage Shinde Post Maratha Agitation

The adept handling of the Manoj Jarange Patil-led Maratha agitation not only consolidates the position of chief minister Eknath Shinde but also marks the emergence of Shinde as the dark horse of Maharashtra politics. Shinde, who himself is a Maratha, could also benefit electorally from the politically strong Maratha vote bank, that has been the mainstay of the Pawars — both uncle Sharad and his nephew Ajit — as also the Congress. By successfully containing the agitation on the outskirts of Mumbai, the CM now finds himself one-up over his deputies, Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar, both of whom nurse ambitions to upstage him. And the backlash is already showing up. Fadnavis has already clarified that police cases will continue against arsonists who indulged in violence against policemen specifying that only courts were authorised to withdraw cases. Shinde had promised withdrawal of all police cases against Maratha activists. Fadnavis supporter advocate Gunaratne Sadavarte has also threatened to challenge the government reservation order in the courts. Chhagan Bhujbal from the Ajit Pawar faction of the NCP has also criticised the draft notification from Shinde government terming the reservation as an eyewash that will not stand up to legal scrutiny. The agitation has successfully helped divert attention from Shinde and his team of 39 legislators being called as ‘traitors’ by Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena that kept Shinde on the defensive and threatened his electoral stakes. The agitation also helped divert attention from the negative effect of breaking two popular political parties — Shiv Sena and NCP for the BJP.
prakash ambedkar

Congress Yet To Forgive Ambedkar For Its 2019 Rout

Prakash Ambedkar’s persistence for over a year may have finally got him space within the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) alliance in Maharashtra but he continues to find himself out of the I.N.D.I.A front, thanks to cold-shouldering from the Congress. The Congress has not forgiven Prakash Ambedkar for his role in their rout in the 2019 Maharashtra Lok Sabha polls when it got reduced to just one seat here. Ambedkar’s Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) 14 % vote share contributed in a big way for the defeat of 11 Congress and NCP candidates including the likes of former chief ministers Ashok Chavan and Sushilkumar Shinde. Though VBA failed to win any seats in the state, it split the secular votes thereby helping the BJP and earning the tag of being the B team of the BJP. In the wake of this background, Ambedkar continues to be viewed with much scepticism within the MVA and it has taken much pushing from Uddhav Thackeray and Sharad Pawar to get him space on the seat-sharing table. Despite being known for his unpredictability and sharp tongue, he is being sought to avoid a split in the Dalit vote bank. No Dalit candidate won from Maharashtra in 2019 Lok Sabha polls, save for the sole seat reserved for the Scheduled Caste in Latur. At a stage when Maharashtra politics is witnessing peak mobilisation of the Maratha vote bank courtesy Manoj Jarange Patil’s agitation, Congress can least afford to let go a chunk of the 10% Dalit electorate from its alliance.
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Opposition Attacks Shinde Govt As 17 Project Shifts From Maharashtra To Gujarat

As more and more businesses, government offices and projects move to Gujarat from Maharashtra, the ruling BJP-led Eknath Shinde’s government faces much flak from the Opposition. The backlash started after the shift of the Vedanta-Foxconn project from Maharashtra in September 2022. Since then there has been much criticism of over 17 projects that have favoured Gujarat over Maharashtra. This includes Mahanand, the state government co-operatives milk brand being brought under the National Dairy Development Board, which operates from Anand, the home base of the Amul brand. This attracted criticism that unlike the governments in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka that came out strongly in support of their own local state milk brands namely Aavin and Nandini over the expansionary tactics of Amul, the Maharashtra government’s milk brand tamely let Mahanand play second fiddle to Amul. The shifting of the diamond market from Mumbai to Surat that was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, too has caused much concern in Maharashtra over loss of employment, business opportunities and overall downsizing of Maharashtra’s financial significance. The latest grouse is the shift of India’s first submarine tourist project from Maharashtra’s Sindhudurg to Gujarat’s Dwarka. The increasing dominance of Gujarat in many aspects of Maharashtra evokes strong public sentiments here, has now emerged as a strong political issue that the Opposition parties are wasting no opportunity to capitalise on in this election year.
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Is Maratha Leader Jarange Patil Going The Anna Hazare Way?

As Maharashtra gears up for yet another political fast fest called by Manoj Jarange Patil, analysts can’t help drawing parallels with state’s another fasting icon — Anna Hazare.  Maratha leader Jarange Patil call for an indefinite fast from January 20, 2024 onwards — his third since his last 17-day fast in September. Just like Jarange Patil, Hazare was also known to send shivers down the spine of governments with his call for fasts on various issues be it demanding Lokpal Bill or action against corrupt ministers or demanding stronger Right to Information (RTI) Act. Both attracted huge crowds and sustained media attention. Their fasts follow the same pattern — delegations of ministers turning up to negotiate terms and chief ministers turning up personally to end the fast by offering orange juice. This was true of Hazare who had the honours done for him by Devendra Fadnavis in 2018, a model followed by current CM Eknath Shinde for Jarange Patil in Jalna recently. Both were neither MPs, MLAs nor MLCs and yet managed to wield enough clout to get their way with the government of the day.  Both gave distinct identity to their hometowns — Ralegan Siddhi (Hazare) and Antarwel Sarati (Jarange Patil). Anna Hazare’s famous fast at Jantar Mantar in Delhi had led to the birth of the Aam Aadmi Party that is now in power in two states. So far, Jarange Patil claims to have no political ambitions, but it now remains to be seen if his Maratha reservation movement will disrupt existing equations in state.
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Will BJP Go Solo In Maharashtra?

Is the BJP planning to ditch rebels of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Shiv Sena (SS) to contest solo in Maharashtra? This claim by Sharad Pawar supporter Jitendra Awhad has created a flutter and touched a raw nerve among the rebel camps of both Eknath Shinde and the Ajit Pawar. Awhad said that buoyed by the BJP’s recent victory in three North Indian states, the party’s internal surveys and deliberations with RSS had led to this strategy. Awhad also claimed that a BJP survey had found that its old cadres were getting disillusioned with it thanks to its growing proximity to tainted leaders and had wanted those to be kept away. The rebels of SS and NCP, who switched loyalties with Eknath Shinde and Ajit Pawar are now worried about whether the BJP will accommodate their political aspirations. Not only could Shinde and Pawar find it difficult to hold their flock together, these splinter groups could also be asked to merge with the BJP. The appointments of upstarts over seasoned stalwarts for chief ministership in the three states by BJP doesn’t bode well for the likes of strong leaders like Shinde and Ajit Pawar either. The strategy of going solo works well with the larger BJP strategy to wipe out the political significance and electoral value of strong regional outfits and their symbols. Though the splinter NCP and Shiv Sena groups are aligned with the BJP, the party hasn’t forgotten the 2019 Vidhan Sabha polls when it was upstaged out of power in Maharashtra despite BJP getting the highest tally of legislators.
Eknath Devendra

Maratha Reservation Highlights Rift Between Shinde And Fadnavis

The Maratha reservation agitation issue has helped chief minister Eknath Shinde get one-up over his deputy and predecessor Devendra Fadnavis. Shinde’s political acumen has helped him win favour with Maratha leader Manoj Jarage Patil, who publicly proclaims that Shinde could be the only person who can make reservations for Marathas possible. Patil though reserves his ire against Fadnavis for creating unrest by ‘poisoning’ the minds of Maratha leaders and has even advised the BJP to expel him from the party and the state. Jarange is upset at Fadnavis for propping up Chhagan Bhujbal for challenging and consolidating the Other Backward Class (OBC) community against him. Jarange and Bhujbal have been involved in a bitter war of words that has stretched to personal lows. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s shift in stance that the Maratha community cannot be granted blanket reservation, has also upset Jarange, who claims that it was an assurance given to get him to withdraw from his 17-day hunger fast on the issue. Police cases against Jarange’s supporters for stone throwing against policemen, has further fuelled anger against Fadnavis, since he holds the home portfolio. While tendering his resignation, state backward class commission member BL Killarikar had claimed that Shinde was ready to conduct a large-scale survey of communities, but was opposed by Fadnavis. The Opposition believes that both the Maratha and OBC agitations are state-sponsored to divert attention from genuine issues affecting the state.
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OBC Politics Revives Pankaja Munde’s Fortune Within BJP

After being sidelined since her defeat at the hands of her own cousin Dhanajay Munde in 2019, Pankaja Munde’s political career is steering back into active mode within the BJP, thanks to a sharp consolidation of the OBC vote bank in Maharashtra. The ongoing Maratha agitation to demand reservation under the OBC category, has upset the OBC’s in the state, who have thrown their political weight behind the leadership of Chhagan Bhujbal. Though Bhujbal is currently with the Ajit Pawar faction of NCP, he is fighting the OBC agitation under his own outfit Samata Parishad. Pankaja, who hails from Vanjari caste, commands strong support from the OBC community especially in the Marathwada region, a legacy she inherits from her late father Gopinath Munde, who was responsible for getting the OBC votes for the BJP. Pankaja is now back in the reckoning within the BJP to woo the OBC votes. Her party had earlier refused to let her participate in the joint OBC rally called by Bhujbal at Nashik, deputing others instead. But, shifting equations in state caste politics led Devendra Fadnavis, who blamed her for downswing within BJP, to get the cousins — Pankaja and Dhananjay — to bury the hatchet and work together. A BJP internal survey showing slip in support for BJP among the OBC’s also worked in her favour. It is learnt that the BJP is considering fielding her for Lok Sabha and adjusting her MP sister Preetam Munde in state council.
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Will It Be A Change Of Guard In Maharashtra?

His resounding victory in the local body elections has brought Ajit Pawar to the centre stage of Maharashtra politics. Two days after Ajit Pawar announced that he would be inaccessible due to dengue, he flummoxed all by holding back to back meetings with Nationalist Congress Party founder Sharad Pawar in Pune and Union home minister Amit Shah at New Delhi the same day. The deputy CM, who has made no bones about his chief ministerial ambitions, is expected to claim his pound of flesh from the BJP having proved his electoral mettle after branching out independently from his uncle’s party. Speculations about change of guard in Maharashtra have also gained currency thanks to talk of Eknath Shinde government set to fall by December 31 as predicted by leaders like Uddhav Thackeray. That is the deadline set by the Supreme Court to decide on disqualification of legislators of the Ekanth Shinde-led Shiv Sena faction. Claims of independent legislator Ravi Rana that Ajit Pawar is trying to convince his uncle to throw in his weight behind the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has only muddied waters further. There had been much talk that the BJP had promised Ajit Pawar the CM’s chair only if he could get his uncle into the BJP alliance. The junior Pawar has been upset at his powers being clipped by the chief minister who reportedly has directed all finance department files to be sent to him. He was also upset at his supporters not being accommodated in ministerial berths and corporations.
Suraj diamond bourse

Shinde Govt In Damage Control Mode As Diamond Traders Leave Mumbai

Maharashtra’s Eknath Shinde government has come in for much flak as the traders from the $ 23 billion big diamond business have started shifting base from Mumbai to Surat Diamond Bourse (SDB). The new diamond market at Surat has attracted attention for indulging in some aggressive marketing, even leveraging their political clout, to coerce Mumbai’s diamond traders to shift there. Even before its scheduled inauguration on December 17, at the hands of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Mumbai diamond traders were lured with major incentives if they completely shut their shop in Mumbai. All this has not gone well with the Opposition parties in Maharashtra, who view this as part of a conspiracy from the Centre to reduce financial clout of Mumbai and Maharashtra. Maharashtra is already upset at the missed opportunities of Foxconn, Tata Airbus and the bulk drug park projects that moved to Gujarat over Maharashtra. The clear push for industries towards Gujarat over Maharashtra may upset BJP’s dream of wresting 40 out of the 48 Parliamentary seats from Maharashtra. Already, there is much consternation in the ruling alliance as some surveys show that public support is weakening for the BJP despite splitting the Shiv Sena and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). Not surprisingly, the chief minister got the industries minister into damage control mode, who announced India’s biggest diamond cluster hub at Navi Mumbai within a year.
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Congress' Backseat Helps I.N.D.I.A Front Glue Together

The role of the Indian National Congress leadership in taking a backseat in the I.N.D.I.A coalition has emerged as one of the key factors that has kept the front together. Had the Congress taken up leadership positions, it would have put off some anti-Congress parties that are part of the coalition,” according to a political analyst. Also, being the dominant partner, the I.N.D.I.A coalition would have earned the tag of a Congress-led initiative, another deterrent factor. Analysts believe that this playing down strategy reflects political maturity on the part of the grand old party. “They are aware of the fact that there are a few parties within the I.N.D.I.A coalition that have won elections on an anti-Congress plank and these parties need to be reassured about their place,” felt Bhalchandra Kango, member of the national secretariat of the Communist Party of India.  If Nitish Kumar had got the parties together in the I.N.D.I.A coalition, we must work to keep all the parties together, Rahul Gandhi is believed to have stated in one of the internal meetings. With this, the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls now promises a straight fight between the 28-party India alliance and the 38-parties BJP-led National Democratic Alliance.
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Language Barrier: Stalin Surprises Everybody, Addresses I.N.D.I.A Leaders In Tamil

Tamil Nadu chief minister MK Stalin chose to give his closing address of the 28-party I.N.D.I.A meet at Mumbai in Tamil. The only South Indian chief minister present on the dais, Stalin just started off in Tamil without any warning. His colleague, six-times Parliamentarian TR Baalu, who was with him on the dais, neither translated his address nor bothered to explain the context to either the delegates or the press. All the other speakers including Uddhav Thackeray and Sharad Pawar, chose to address in Hindi except for Sitaram Yechury who spoke in English. A delegate, who was part of the I.N.D.I.A front internal meet, revealed that Stalin failed to fully participate in the internal meetings, due to the language barrier. “Stalin always kept his counterpart TR Baalu around him. Baalu presented the party view at the internal meetings while Stalin merely followed the proceedings in English,” a delegate informed. The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) has been a strong opponent of imposition of Hindi. Stalin started his short address with a greeting of ‘Vanakkam’ and went on to explain how the I.N.D.I.A front has not come together with the quest for power but with the resolve to protect the nation, its constitution, the society and cultural values. Soon after he wrapped up his speech, he left the dais along with Baalu.
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I.N.D.I.A Skips Contentious Issues, Sets Aside Decisions On PM Candidate

The 28-party I.N.D.I.A front has decided to side step the contentious issue of finalising the prime ministerial face to forge ahead in the alliance. The alliance has decided to stay face-less in its fight against prime minister Narendra Modi to diffuse tensions in I.N.D.I.A with multiple claimants throwing hats in the ring. With 11 chief ministers like Nitish Kumar, Mamata Banerjee and Arvind Kejriwal in the fray, the leadership of I.N.D.I.A is a delicate issue that could destabilize the alliance at any point of time. Though the Congress wanted to push Rahul Gandhi for leadership position, it wisely seems to have given up. Though a similar anti-BJP front had emerged in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, it had failed to work due to lack of unity. Hence, it has been decided to instead let the PM candidate emerge post-election depending on how the parties fare in the Lok Sabha polls. Another contentious issue, that of seat sharing is also likely to be delegated to various state-level committees to diffuse tensions. With parties in West Bengal, Punjab, Delhi and Kerala being at loggerheads in Delhi, the emphasis will be on the ability to win seats to determine seat sharing allocations. Similarly, key responsibilities will be décentralised and delegated to coordination committee and sub-committees rather than a single convenor to avoid focus on a single party or leader.
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Under The Cloud, Sharad Pawar Dares PM Modi

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, who has been under the cloud, following his hobnobbing with his nephew Ajit Pawar even after splitting his party, dared Prime Minister Narendra Modi to investigate and act against him. “You are in power, the facts are with you. Investigate and bring the truth before the entire country,” the senior Pawar dared at the precursor press briefing of the INDIA alliance. Prior to Ajit Pawar aligning with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), PM Modi had alleged that the NCP was involved in corruption of over Rs 70,000 crore. Sharad Pawar has stated that there is no confusion among people and they will show the defected NCP leaders, who shifted allegiance to the BJP-Shiv Sena ruling alliance, their place in the polls. The NCP party is expecting deterrent action from the Modi government in the form of losing their party name or symbol, a la the Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena, a senior NCP leader said. Incidentally, while Uddhav Thackeray works closely with Sharad Pawar, his party mouthpiece Saamna continues to be strongly critical of Pawar’s mollycoddling with his nephew, which it termed sends confusing signals to workers of the alliance partners in the Maha Vikas Aghadi.
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@AjitPawarSpeaks

NCP's Swift Entry-N-Rise In Maharashtra Govt Rankles Ruling Allies

Ajit Pawar’s ability to swing the best portfolios for himself and his team of eight ministers, within 12 days of joining the Maharashtra government, has led to much heartburn among his own ruling allies, namely the Eknath Shinde’s Shiv Sena and even within the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). He managed to whisk a few ministries from the BJP itself after meeting up with union home minister Amit Shah. These include key portfolios like finance (held earlier by Devendra Fadnavis), cooperation (held by Atul Save), medical education (held by Girish Mahajan) and even women and child development (held by Mangal Prabhat Lodha). Other crucial portfolios like agriculture, food and drug administration were taken away from Shinde’s sainiks. The swiftness with which Pawar has managed to get his way in the government has led to much consternation especially when allies like Bacchu Kadu have been left hankering. The NCP ministers too, got their bungalow and office allotments, even before they got their portfolios. Earlier, a ministerial bungalow was opened by breaking the lock to make way for Ajit Pawar faction’ office. The NCP sure knows its way around a desperate BJP which is keen to win maximum Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra next year to retain Delhi.
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BMC Officials Get Caught In Internecine Sena Rift: IAS Officer Gets ED Raid, Another Gets Slapped

Government officials working in India’s wealthiest civic corporation, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) are facing the brunt of being caught in the crossfire of Shiv Sena’s internecine conflict. Having ruled the BMC for over 25 years without a break has meant that, both the Shiv Sena factions — Uddhav Thackeray and Eknath Shinde — have immense understanding about the nuances of how BMC works. With the result that they are adopting every trick in the book, to use the BMC to get back at the other. Amidst allegations of close aides bagging multi-crore Covid deals and Covid procurements done at inflated costs,  an IAS officer and former additional commissioner of BMC, was raided by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and found having assets worth Rs 100 crore. Soon afterwards, demolition of a 40-year-old party office of the Uddhav Thackeray faction at Bandra East, led to party workers slapping a civic engineer. Officials now fear a spike in pressure tactics as the BMC elections inch closer. Uddhav is no stranger to this business of (mis) using the BMC official machinery for his political fights. He had similarly used the BMC’s offices to get back at opponents supporting the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) like actress Kangana Ranaut or Navneet Rana or Mohit Kambhoj by initiating action for illegal alterations. Even Radio Jockey Mallishka wasn’t spared of BMC notices for poking fun at the potholed roads of Mumbai.
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Newspaper Ads Highlight Shadow Boxing Between Ruling Allies SS-BJP In Maharashtra

A front-page newspaper advertisement issued by the chief minister Eknath Shinde faction of the Shiv Sena tom-tomming a survey that rated Shinde ahead of his deputy Devendra Fadnavis for CM’s post, has highlighted the shadow boxing between the ruling allies in Maharashtra. Interestingly, the advertisement with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s photo comes in the wake of the discontentment brewing in the Shinde camp following tactics adopted by the BJP. The friction between the Shinde’s Sena and the BJP was also evident in reports that the national party had asked Shinde to sack five of his party ministers on grounds of unsatisfactory performance. This had upset the Shinde camp since all five ministers on the chopping board were Shinde strongmen, who played key roles in his government formation that helped him get the CM’s chair. The BJP strategy to expand in Maharashtra — not by making inroads into Opposition spaces but by inching into strongholds held by its own ally, the Eknath Shinde faction of the Shiv Sena — has clearly upset the CM and his party of supporters. His supporters fear being denied tickets in their own backyards. Not surprisingly, firebrand Shiv Sena Parliamentarian Sanjay Raut commented that the BJP would make Shinde’s men to scramble for every seat. Amit Shah has announced a target to win 45 of the total 48 seats in the state during his recent rally at Nanded.
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Twitter

Is Communal Cauldron In Maharashtra Deliberately Kept On Boil?

Communal cauldron in Maharashtra is deliberately kept on the boil in view of the forthcoming elections in the state, charges Opposition leaders. Communal disturbances broke out simultaneously in Kolhapur, Dhule and Ahmednagar on June 7 following protests called by pro-Hindu organisations protesting against glorification of Aurangzeb on social media and his pics being flanked openly in rallies. Nationalist Congress Party supremo (NCP) Sharad Pawar alleges that the ruling alliance had failed to act strongly against communal forces. NCP leader Jitendra Avhad says that if assembly elections were held in Maharashtra today the Opposition alliance party Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) would win more than 200 seats and hence these disturbances were being engineered. The tensions have been simmering in the state for some time now ever since the BJP-Shiv Sena returned to power in the state with Eknath Shinde as chief minister. The tensions rise in the backdrop of anti- love jihad rallies organised at various districts.  Anil Parab, leader from the Uddhav Thackeray group said that such tensions would deter investors away from the state. Meanwhile, deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis warned that the spurt in glorification of Aurangzeb and Tipu Sultan would not be tolerated.
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Pawar Steps Down Following Succession Battle In NCP

The succession battle within the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) seems to have led to Sharad Pawar’s decision to step down from the NCP. A battle for succession had been brewing in the NCP that had led to Ajit Pawar’s forthright claim for the chief minister’s and almost threatened a vertical split in the NCP. Ajit Pawar, who is Maharashtra’s longest deputy chief minister – he has held the post four times — clearly is tired of waiting for the CM’s chair. Ajit Pawar has already muscled his way within the NCP, way beyond his contemporaries like Jayant Patil, Dilip Walse Patil, Sunil Tatkare. Analysts believe that Ajit Pawar is ruffled by the fact that the NCP won’t hand him the CM’s post even if the MVA wins in 2024, preferring either Uddhav Thackeray or Supriya Sule, instead. The reluctance of senior Pawar, now 82, to spell out his party’s succession plans, has evidently made Ajit Pawar uncomfortable. When Supriya first entered politics, the broad understanding in NCP was that she would work at the national level, while Ajit would lead charge at the state level. But, now with Sule clawing back her way in state politics, to claim her father’s party, has clearly made him restless. NCP may have lost its tag as a national party but analysts believe that it retains enough clout to bounce back with a winning tally in 2024, higher than the 53 seats it currently holds. The brewing succession battle threatens to disrupt equations in the NCP, the coalition arithmetic and politics in Maharashtra.
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As SC Verdict Date Nears, Race For Maharashtra CM’s Chair Hots Up

Suddenly there are many aspirants for the post of chief minister of Maharashtra. Or so it seems. All seem to have concluded that the Supreme Court verdict, to determine the fate of the Shiv Sena rebels, will go against Eknath Shinde and his 15 legislators, leading to a change in government. Aspirants range from Ajit Pawar, Jayant Patil from the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). The BJP’s ex-CM Devendra Fadnavis’ continues to stay in the race with state BJP leaders regularly pegging him as “our own CM.” Uddhav Thackeray continues to be a strong contender despite a drastic fall in his legislators’ strength from 56 to 16. Supriya Sule could be the dark horse in the fray.  Not to be left behind, Ramdas Athawale too wants to be counted in for the race. Incidentally, in February, posters had sprung hailing NCP leaders like Ajit Pawar, Jayant Patil and even Supriya Sule as the future CM of Maharashtra. However, NCP leaders termed it as the work of mischievous elements. Now, when Ajit Pawar has already thrown his hat into the ring, posters are springing up yet again, hailing him as the future CM. At this juncture, a statement by NCP chief Sharad Pawar about the need for change in government, has only further fuelled the speculations. Incidentally, the man at the helm right now, Shinde, is tight-lipped and maintaining a low-profile.
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Sanjay Raut Emerges As A Unique Polarising Factor In Maharashtra Politics

The political uncertainty playing out in Maharashtra has led to the emergence of Sanjay Raut as a unique polarising factor in Maharashtra politics. Be it during the split of the Shiv Sena, when Eknath Shinde legislators blamed him for the split or now during the almost-split of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). Raut’s claim in his political column about Sharad Pawar admission of factions within his party set to join the BJP, had clearly rankled Ajit Pawar, who saw it as Raut’s meddling in his party’s affairs. Earlier, Raut had similarly rankled the Bharatiya Janata party Party (BJP), which blamed him particularly his editorials in Saamna for creating rifts in the SS- BJP’s alliance. Raut has clearly emerged as a unique player in Maharashtra politics way beyond his position as editor of the Shiv Sena (UBT) mouthpiece Saamna or even as his party’s spokesperson. He is now the most vociferous proponent of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) –Maharashtra’s experiment of an anti-BJP front. Though Sharad Pawar is the architect of the MVA, it was Raut, who has successfully advocated it before the media and the people. Enforcement agencies and even 100 days in jail have failed to tame his sharp-tongue. As political uncertainty lingers on over the forthcoming Supreme Court verdict on the fate of the Eknath Shinde’s legislators and his government, Raut’s role is only set to get more prominent.
Tanaji Sawant

Maharashtra Health Minister Tanaji Sawant Seeks New Political Post, Ignoring Covid Resurge

As the number of Covid cases resurge in Maharashtra with the state registering a 63% spike in daily cases and three deaths as on March 29, its health minister Tanaji Sawant seems preoccupied with completely different concerns. At a meeting in Pandharpur recently, Sawant admitted that the health ministry didn’t interest him and he had taken it up with much reluctance. He claimed that the Eknath Shinde-Devendra Fadnavis government had given him positions that didn’t interest him, be it the health portfolio or even the guardian ministry of Parbhani and Dharashiv districts. Not one to mince words, Sawant had openly admitted that he was planning rebellion against Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray for denying him a ministerial berth in 2019, by holding over 100-150 meetings with legislators, over a period of two years when the state was reeling under Covid. Now, when the State is witnessing resurgence of Covid, the man at the helm, Sawant seems to be on a personal overdrive boasting that he could pull crowds much more than the likes of late Atal Bihari Vajpayee or even Bal Thackeray. Sawant is now eyeing the guardian minister’s slot for Solapur and has openly appealed to the chief minister and his deputy, to do the needful.
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Is Politics Straining Personal Relationships Of Leaders In Maharashtra?

The uncertainty in Maharashtra is straining personal relations among political relationships. Every cursory visit or comment is viewed with suspicion and tends to create much speculation about the future political direction of every political leader. Visits by chief minister Eknath Shinde to the deputy chairperson of legislative council Neelam Gorhe raised eyebrows forcing her to clarify her position stating that “Even earlier chief ministers would visit and confer with the presiding officers of the legislative council or assembly for official purposes. Be it our earlier chief ministers Uddhav Thackeray or Devendra Fadnavis who would confer with the then speaker Ramraje Naik Nimbalkar. Our earlier speaker Shivajirao Deshmukh also received chief ministers regularly over official matters. These are routine procedures and should not be viewed beyond that.” Gorhe has her loyalties with the Uddhav Thackeray faction of Shiv Sena, whose 16 legislators are being wooed by the Eknath Shinde-led Sena that enjoys the support of over 40 legislators. Though Maharashtra has a history of political leaders maintaining civil relations beyond party lines, this political culture of civility is now clearly under strain in the new political atmosphere. Former chief ministers Shiv Sena’s Uddhav Thackeray and Bharatiya Janata Party’s Devendra Fadnavis’ warm greeting when they happened to enter the assembly together by chance, also created much flutter.
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Weak Maharashtra Opposition Fails To Put BJP On The Mat For Bookie Daughter Scandal

The recent scandal linking a designer-bookie’s daughter Aniksha Jaisinghani with Amruta Fadnavis, wife of Maharashtra’s deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, was viewed as an opportunity lost by the Opposition party Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA). Leaders of MVA regret that they have been unable to put the ruling dispensation on the mat or demand their resignations. “Had the BJP got such a chance, they would have raised a ruckus enough to get the entire government to resign on this. Our ministers have had to put in their papers for much smaller errors. Vilasrao Deshmukh lost his chief ministership over film director Ram Gopal Varma’s visit to Hotel Taj post the 26/11 attack, while Union minister Shivraj Patil was made to resign for changing his clothes multiple times during serial blasts in Delhi,” said a former MVA minister. Referring to a stricture passed by the High Court against chief minister Eknath Shinde for reversing his deputy cooperatives minister’s decision, Opposition leader Ajit Pawar had said such HC strictures would have been enough reason for a minister to resign earlier, but not anymore. Not surprisingly, the ruling Fadnavis-Shinde government ministers seem quite lackadaisical skipping legislative discussions over catching up at the lobby instead. The Opposition had to tell the CM to instruct his ministers to attend the house so that they could hear Opposition leaders’ various demands including that of holding civic polls in the state immediately.
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Ajit Pawar Alleges Shinde-Fadnavis Govt Using Fund Allocations To Arm Twist MLAs Supporting Uddhav Thackeray

Opposition leader Ajit Pawar has hinted that Maharashtra chief minister Eknath Shinde misused the state financial allocations to pressurise legislators from the Uddhav Thackeray faction of Shiv Sena to quit their party. Pointing out that only 52% of last 2022-23 budgetary allocations had been utilised, Pawar stated that soon after assuming power, the Shinde government had stalled funding for developmental works in constituencies of the Opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi legislators. While a few legislators from the Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress did manage to get their way subsequently after meeting up with Shinde, those supporting the Uddhav Thackeray faction, had it really bad. Pawar alleged that the Uddhav’s MLAs were told that disbursal of funds for their projects was simply subject to their decision (to shift their allegiance). Pawar also pointed out that the state had failed to utilise 67% of the Rs 13,290 crore allocated by his government district development works. Pawar, who had presented over 9 budgets in the state, termed the 2023-24 Devendra Fadnavis’ maiden budget as finance minister as an election-oriented one lacking vision and peppered with unrealistic promises.
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New Anti-Copying Directives In Maharashtra Face Parents Ire

The new anti-copying campaign being pushed strongly by the Maharashtra government for the forthcoming 2023 Class X and Class XII board examinations, has met with much criticism especially from the parents, who took it up with Raj Thackeray, demanding his intervention. The state government has withdrawn the existing provision of distributing question papers 10 minutes before exams and has ordered closure of photocopy shops located within 100 metres of exam centers, believed to be hubs of distributing question papers. Schools have also been asked to emphasize to parents about criminal action that could be taken if students are found indulging in exam malpractices. The board also reminded that indulging in exam malpractices will mean barring them for five subsequent exams. While the Class XII board exams begin on February 21, the Class X exams begin on March 2 in Maharashtra. This sudden focus on anti-copying measures has met with much criticism from parents, who say that the board should be more considerate towards students who are just recovering from academic disturbances for the past two years caused by Covid. “At a time when students are struggling with lack of writing practice and trying to cope up with their concepts after loss of academic learnings due to Covid, it is unfair to launch such campaigns at this juncture,” says Anubha Sahay, of the Indiawide Parents Association.
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Mumbai On Its Way To Become A Metro-Centric City

The extended western suburbs of Mumbai – the city’s most populous stretch — gets fully covered by the Metro network from January 20 onwards. Providing seamless connectivity on an entirely elevated network of 35 km of lines with 30 platforms at the cost of Rs 13,000 crore, has been presented as a solution against the congested Western Express Highway and its parallel running New Link Road. Completing the project was challenging, says SVR Srinivas, metropolitan commissioner of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), the city’s planning body, as it meant carrying out major part of the works at night due to heavy traffic congestion. There were challenges in air as well — the Andheri (W) station had to be raised to 22 metres above ground to cross over the existing Metro line 1 lines beneath. This line is estimated to see a footfall of 3-4 lakhs passengers daily soon. This is the second network that is fully operational; the first Ghatkopar-Versova line is already providing much needed relief with its East-West connectivity. While the metro network huffed and chuffed in its initial stages thanks to opposition from residents and environmentalists, it has picked up much speed since then to move towards its target of achieving 337 km with 200 stations by 2030 to service 7 lakhs passengers per day.
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BMC’s Carrot And Stick Policy: Extends Friendly Loans To Hawkers, But Keeps Its Eviction Drive On

The hawkers in Mumbai are facing a strange dilemma. On the one hand, the government is wooing them by literally calling them to take bank loans of Rs 10,000 under the Pradhan Mantri Swa-Nidhi Yojana for self-employed professionals. Perceived as a strategy to woo the mainly North Indian hawkers’ community by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the wake of forthcoming Mumbai’s civic elections, the rules for domicile certification were recently withdrawn to widen the base of hawkers benefit from it. At the same time, hawkers continue to also face eviction from the streets of Mumbai. “It’s a strange situation. On the one hand, those 17,000 hawkers enlisted in the 2014 hawkers survey, receive calls from local ward offices to fill forms and take loans. But, while we get loans, we also continue to face evictions. Not yet being issued hawking licenses means that loans serve as no guarantee of livelihoods for us. How do we repay loans if we don’t hawk on the streets?” asks Jai Shankar Singh, general secretary of the Azad Hawkers Union. The BMC is forced to solicit hawkers for loans as civic officials were given an initial target to approve loans for one lakh hawkers. However, mid-way through their targets were doubled to two lakh hawkers till March 2023. So far the BMC has managed to approve loans for 92,000 hawkers.
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Flip Flops In BMC Mars City Administration In Mumbai

With elections to the coveted Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) round the corner, the media management has assumed critical proportions. On December 19, administrator Iqbal Singh Chahal issued an official diktat barring officials below the rank of additional municipal commissioners, from speaking to the media. However the diktat was withdrawn within a day reportedly with damage control ordered from none other than the chief minister’s office. The third day saw another fresh order, this time department heads could speak to the media but only with the permission of their superiors. All this is meant to ensure positive media coverage, retain its good image and nip fake news, the order explains. The ruling dispensation clearly wants the works of the BMC, especially its pet projects, to be highlighted in the media in the run-up to the elections. A media clampdown means less scope for tom-tomming civic works as soft political campaigning – a major handicap. Flip flops in decision making have come to become a hallmark of the BMC’s functioning ever since the formation of the new government led by Eknath Shinde-Devendra Fadnavis. Similarly, transfers of officials have also been withdrawn or changed, within 24 hours at times. “Fault lines within the new government have led to abrupt U-turns, creating chaos and confusion. The administrator’s failure to stand firm for the interest of the city and succumbing to random pressures, has become a bane of our city,” observes Ravi Raja, Congress’ ex- opposition leader in BMC.
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With Festival Season On, FDA Officials Step Up Raids To Check Food Adulteration

Come festive season the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) is abuzz with raids and surveys to check rampant food adulteration. Since the consumption of sweets is high during festive seasons there is a tendency to adulterate sweets and make a quick buck. This year between May and August 2022, the FDA raided 18 places and seized about 11,697 kg of adulterated foodstuffs valued at over Rs 19 lakhs according to the joint commissioner FDA, Shashikant Kekre. Though Mumbai is no longer a food manufacturing hub, the adulteration with cheaper stocks essentially takes place in the city during the repackaging stage. The FDA officials either track adulteration rackets with the help of tip-offs or trace them with their documentary evidence. If for instance, the final stock of packaged oil doesn’t tally or exceeds the bulk stock procurement, then clearly there is scope for investigation. Once the foodstuffs are confirmed as adulterated by the laboratories, the stuff is destroyed. In the case of milk which is either diluted with water or laced with urea, thus making it unsafe, it is drained off while items like gutkha are burnt out. But in case of palm oil, which is used as an adulterant in other costlier cooking oils like sunflower or groundnut or mustard oil, it is resold in the market to commercial users.

TRENDS & VIEWS

Editor’s Note: Big Punch In Small Pack

It is the Third Anniversary of Short Post and as a news media startup launched during the Covid-19 pandemic it certainly feels better than good to find ourselves where we are today. Here, I must cite the unstinted support of our seasoned contributors, all senior editors in the country, who brought a great degree of maturity and sagacity to the Short Post newsroom. But for them, our tagline “Authentic Gossip”, an Oxymoron, would not have matured viably. Our user numbers may be small but our stories have created the desired impact among people who matter — decision makers and influencers. We offer a big punch in a small pack and Short Post with its 225-word stories has been punching above its weight category. Having posted close to 3,000 stories in the last 36 months, Short Post, I feel, is an idea whose time has come.
And this is vindicated by our two marquee advertisers – IDFC FIRST Bank and ICICI Lombard. Both believed in our story and have supported us from Day one. A big thank you to both.
If you look at the media landscape – print, TV and digital — it is a mixed bag. There are job losses as some outfits have closed down while a lucky few were bailed out by large corporate houses. Yes, there is a lot of action in the digital space. However, the entry of corporate houses has raised the question of independence of news media outfits. Sadly, there are just a handful of independent media outfits in the country that are highly respected for their neutrality. At Short Post, our credo is not to take sides, prejudge issues or be biased but, informing readers of behind-the-scenes happenings. In essence, Short Post strives to be a neutral editorial platform — neither anti-establishment nor pro-establishment.
As I said last year, disruptions in the media world are moving at a fast and furious pace. Technology is playing a very big role in how content is generated and consumed. But, we are neither alarmed nor perturbed as it is all a part of the evolution process. What gives us comfort is that AI is unable to create original gossipy content. And that is the news arena where we have achieved a distinction.