Nashik Lok Sabha Elections 2024: Direct Sena vs Sena Fight With Slight Edge to Uddhav Thackeray’s Candidate

The Nashik Lok Sabha constituency will vote in the fifth phase of general elections on May 20, 2024. (PTI/File)

The Nashik Lok Sabha constituency will vote in the fifth phase of general elections on May 20, 2024. (PTI/File)

It’s a straight fight in the highly coveted Nashik seat in north Maharashtra between Eknath Shinde’s Shiv Sena and the Shiv Sena-Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray (UBT) after the ruling BJP-Shiv Sena-NCP Mahayuti alliance witnessed intense lobbying for the constituency in seat-sharing talks

Nashik Lok Sabha constituency is one of 48 parliamentary constituencies in Maharashtra. It is a General category seat and comprises part of the Nashik district. Six Assembly segments fall under the Nashik Lok Sabha seat, of which the BJP currently holds three (Nashik East, Nashik Central and Nashik West), Ajit Pawar’s NCP holds one (Sinnar), Sharad Pawar-led NCP faction holds one (Devlali-SC) and the Congress holds one (Igatpuri-ST).

Polling Date — May 20, 2024; Phase 5

Sitting MP — Hemant Godse (Eknath Shinde’s Shiv Sena)

Candidates — Hemant Godse (Shiv Sena), Rajabhau Waje (Shiv Sena-UBT)

Political Dynamics

  • It’s a straight fight in the highly coveted Nashik seat in north Maharashtra between Eknath Shinde’s Shiv Sena and the Shiv Sena-Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray (UBT) after the ruling BJP-Shiv Sena-NCP Mahayuti alliance witnessed intense lobbying for the constituency in seat-sharing talks.
  • At present, the Shiva Sena-UBT is said to be slightly ahead in the contest but the arrival of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for an election rally is tipped to help the Shiv Sena catch up.
  • Shiv Sena Prevails in Mahayuti: The question of who gets the Nashik seat has been a real test of unity in the BJP-Ajit Pawar-Eknath Shinde Mahayuti alliance in Maharashtra.
  • The seat is held in the outgoing Lok Sabha by Hemant Godse of Chief Minister Eknath Shinde’s Shiv Sena, but the Ajit Pawar-led NCP had lobbied intensely for the constituency in March-April.
  • The NCP wanted to field senior leader Chhagan Bhujbal from Nashik after he turned down a proposal to contest on the BJP symbol.
  • But the seat eventually went to sitting two-time MP Hemant Godse. He had won the Nashik seat in 2014 and 2019 elections as part of the undivided Shiv Sena.
  • In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Godse had defeated nearest rival, NCP candidate Sameer Bhujbal, by a whopping 2,92,204 votes and had cornered 50.27% of the vote share. Sameer Bhujbal is the nephew of Chhagan Bhujbal.
  • In the 2014 elections, Godse’s nearest rival was Chhagan Bhujbal himself who was defeated by a margin of 1,87,336 votes.
  • If Godse wins the 2024 elections, he would be the first MP to clinch a hat trick in Nashik.
  • It’s not going to be smooth-sailing though for the sitting MP since his Shiv Sena-UBT rival was already a month into campaigning while the Mahayuti dealt with seat-sharing pangs.
  • Eknath Shinde has been hard at work, trying to ensure minimal splitting of votes. He met Chhagan Bhujbal asking for support for Godse and convinced both his Nashik district chief Ajay Boraste as well as turncoat Vijay Karanjkar to withdraw their claims to the Nashik ticket and back Godse instead.
  • Uddhav’s Quest to Regain Nashik: With sitting MP Hemant Godse siding with Eknath Shinde in the Shiv Sena split, Uddhav Thackeray is keen to bring back the constituency to his kitty. The Shiv Sena-UBT has trusted Parag Rajabhau Vaje for the job.
  • In giving Vaje the ticket, the Shiv Sena-UBT lost Nashik district unit president Vijay Karanjkar to Eknath Shinde’s Shiv Sena. Karanjkar was expecting the ticket for himself but jumped ship when he was overlooked for Vaje.
  • Vaje, a former MLA from Sinnar, had a month’s head-start in campaigning while the BJP-NCP-Shiv Sena alliance bickered over who would get the Nashik seat.
  • Vaje Slightly Ahead Godse: The decision to field Vaje in Nashik seems to be paying off for Shiv Sena-UBT with the former MLA said to be making inroads into the electorate with his simple demeanour and helpful nature. He is said to be easily accessible and is seen helping people who come with problems like school admissions, hospital fees etc.
  • Ironically, these were the very traits that had helped Vaje’s rival Godse win the Nashik seat in 2014 and 2019.
  • Chhagan Bhujbal Episode: The deadlock in the Mahayuti over the Nashik seat ended in part because senior NCP leader and Maharashtra minister Chhagan Bhujbal decided not to seek ticket.
  • In a press conference announcing his decision, the veteran OBC leader said Ajit Pawar had staked claim to the Nashik seat because the NCP has more MLAs in the region.
  • He said initially his nephew and former CM Sameer Bhujbal’s name cropped up for the ticket, but claim senior BJP leader and Union Home Minister Amit Shah was of the opinion that Chhagan Bhujbal should himself contest.
  • As Eknath Shinde too demanded the seat since the sitting MP was from his party, the stalemate dragged on for three weeks during which the opposition MVA had already started campaigning.
  • Somewhat reluctantly, Bhujbal withdrew from the race on April 19, cautioning the Mahayuti to announce the candidate soon “otherwise we may face difficulty winning the seat”. Sitting MP Godse was eventually announced as the alliance candidate.
  • Lingering Bitterness: All, however, is not well within the Mahayuti alliance despite the seat going to Shiv Sena. On May 9, Shiv Sena MLA Suhas Kande accused Chhagan Bhujbal of campaigning for the rival NCP-SP headed by Sharad Pawar in Nashik and Dindori seats.
  • Kande, who is MLA from Nandgaon, claims Bhujbal’s workers are seen openly with opposition candidates. He even demanded that Bhujbal resign from the Maharashtra cabinet.
  • Hitting back, Bhujbal said Kande criticises him for publicity and was queering the pitch for the ruling alliance candidates, “who are already on the backfoot due to people’s anger over onion prices”.
  • Marathas vs Bhujbal: From the point of view of Mahayuti candidate Hemant Godse, the less Bhujbal campaigns for him, the better, since 60% or close to 4 lakh voters in Nashik are from the Maratha community. Amid the Maratha-OBC quota tussle, OBC leader Bhujbal is not a popular figure in Nashik.
  • As per sources, Godse was even reluctant to do a recent photo-op with Bhujbal, but had to comply with the senior leadership’s diktat. The two leaders also share a bitter electoral rivalry dating back to the days their respective parties were undivided.
  • The Maratha quota agitation is a huge election issue in Nashik as in other Marathwada districts.
  • Led by activist Manoj Jarange, the Maratha community has been insisting on quota for the Marathas under the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category.
  • The OBCs, led by leaders like Chhagan Bhujbal, say they are not opposed to Marathas getting reservation but are against “backdoor entry” of the Maratha community into the OBC quota.
  • Entry of Shantigiri Maharaj: An intriguing entrant in electoral politics from Nashik this time is spiritual leader Shantigiri Maharaj who claims to have the backing of at least 4 lakh voters.
  • Known as ‘Mauni Baba’ for his frequent vows of silence, Maharaj’s name has been doing rounds as a likely candidate for the Nashik Lok Sabha constituency for some time.
  • He was reportedly keen on an NDA ticket, but is now contesting as an Independent.
  • As per reports, emissaries sent by CM Eknath Shinde and Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis urged Shantigiri Maharaj to withdraw his nomination, but the spiritual leader refused.
  • He has claimed his Jai Babaji Temple and trust have followers in around 1.80 lakh families, which translates into nearly 4 lakh voters.
  • He is banking on his “clean image” and claims to enjoy influence in 16 Assembly seats in and around Nashik district.
  • Sources, however, say he may garner anywhere between 50,000 and 1 lakh votes. He is also from the Maratha community.
  • Caste Factors: Maratha community holds the sway in Nashik, accounting for 60% of the voting population. It is no surprise thus that both Shiv Sena factions have fielded candidates from the Maratha community.
  • Next come the OBCs, numbering around 3 lakh, including Kunbi Marathas. Political observers say the OBCs of Nashik do not consider Chhagan Bhujbal to be their leader. Majority of them, especially the Vanjaris, are backers of Sharad Pawar.
  • Dalit voters also account for around 2.5 lakh to 3 lakh voters. Despite Prakash Ambedkar’s Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) fielding candidate Karan Gaikar from Nashik, Dalit voters are unlikely to vote for him since he used to be the leader of Maratha Kranti Morcha earlier. Sources say the VBA will struggle to touch 50,000 votes in Nashik this time.
  • Political observers say Dalit votes will likely split between Godse and Vaje, with more favouring the latter.
  • With the Maratha, OBC and Dalit votes likely to split in some ratios between Shiv Sena and Shiv Sena-UBT, the Muslim votes in Nashik — close to 2 lakh — may decide the fate of the candidates. Muslim voters are likely to vote for the MVA en masse over national issues like Uniform Civil Code and the communal polarisation.
  • Modi-Shah Visit: Sources say Prime Minister Modi’s campaign rally in Nashik may be the gamechanger the ruling alliance needs in Nashik.
  • While Modi’s visit is tipped to enthuse the public towards the Mahayuti candidate, Amit Shah’s visit will likely make slacking or reluctant cadre fall in line.

Key Constituency Issues

  • Maratha Quota: The Maratha reservation demand has dominated Maharashtra’s political landscape since the Supreme Court struck down the 2018 Act of the state which provided quota in education and jobs to the Maratha community.
  • Activist Manoj Jarange is demanding that the entire Maratha community should be given quota in the OBC category by identifying them as Kunbi. Kunbis, an agrarian community, fall in the OBC category.
  • But Chhagan Bhujbal opposed the demand, stating that Marathas should not get a share in the OBC quota.
  • Bhujbal took a defiant stand even though the Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena-BJP-NCP government was sympathetic to the quota demand. It set up the Sandeep Shinde committee to examine pre-1967 Kunbi records.
  • Jarange has maintained that Marathas and Kunbis are socially and culturally very close.
  • The government subsequently enacted a fresh legislation providing 10% quota to Marathas. But some Maratha organisations claimed that it would not stand judicial scrutiny, and the overall quota in the state now exceeds 50%.
  • Onion Export Ban Fallout: Though the Centre lifted the ban on onion exports earlier this month in a major relief for a large section of farmers in key producing regions, including Maharashtra, the issue and the protests over it will likely have an electoral impact.
  • On December 8 last year, the Centre had banned onion exports to control retail prices amid concerns over likely fall in production. During the last 4-5 years, the country annually exported between 17 lakh and 25 lakh tonnes of onions.
  • Onion farmers had staged massive protests against the move and had even blocked the busy Mumbai-Agra Highway at three places in Maharashtra’s Nashik.
  • Angry farmers had also stopped auctions at onion markets of Lasalgaon, Chandwad, Nandgaon, Dindori, Yeola, Umarane and other places in Nashik district, a major production centre of the commodity.
  • To control prices, the government imposed a minimum export price (MEP) of USD 800 per tonne on onion exports from October 28 to December 31 last year.
  • In August, India had imposed a 40 per cent export duty on onions up to December 31.
  • The Congress has accused the Narendra Modi government of “callously neglecting” Maharashtra’s onion farmers affected due to the ban on onion exports and said that its manifesto promises a predictable import-export policy to prevent such catastrophic last-minute policies being imposed on farmers.
  • Demand for IT Industry: While neighbouring Pune is a buzzing IT hub, Nashik has been waiting for years to be turned into one.
  • The district has a large poor of IT graduates who are forced to leave their hometowns for jobs in Pune and Mumbai.
  • Demand for Jobs: Locals have been demanding that attracting IT companies to set up shop in the district will bring much-needed employment.
  • Similar is the case with other engineers and doctors who need to migrate for employment.
  • Godavari Pollution: The Godavari River, India’s second-largest river, originates from Trimbakeswar in Nashik and has been plagued by pollution for years. According to a water quality assessment by ResearchGate, 80% of this pollution is domestic while 18% comes from industries.
  • Successive MPs have promised during elections that Nashik residents will one day be able to consume raw river water without worrying about pollutants but the progress on Godavari clean-up has been at glacial pace.

Voter Demographics

Social composition

SC — 9.1%

ST — 25.6%

Religious composition

Buddhist — 1.55%

Christian — 0.39%

Jain — 0.63%

Muslim — 11.35%

Sikh — 0.15%

Major Infra Projects in Nashik

  • Nashik Metro: The Nashik Metro, also known as Metro NEO, is a proposed bus rapid transit system in Nashik.
  • The project will include two electric trolleybus lines totaling 32 km, and is estimated to cost Rs 2,100.60 crore.
  • The Maharashtra Metro Rail Corporation Limited (Maha-Metro), City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO), and Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) are jointly building the project.
  • The Metro Neo system will also include a 10 km rubber-tired metro with 20 stations, two depots, and both elevated and at-grade sections.
  • Pune-Nashik Railway Line: In February 2023, the Ministry of Railways accorded in-principle approval for a Pune-Nashik high-speed rail project.
  • The line is proposed to be 234.60-km-long and will be at-grade and elevated.
  • The line will have 24 stations, including 13 crossing stations and 11 flag stations. The stations include Pune, Hadapsar, Manjiri, Kolwadi, Wagholi, Alandi, Chakan, Rajgurunagar, Bhorwadi, Manchar, Narayangaon, Alephata, Bota, Jambut, Sakur, Ambhore, Sangamner, Devthan, Chas, Dodi, Sinnar, Mohadari, Shinde, and Nashik Road.
  • The railway line is expected to boost development and provide seamless connectivity to the industrial zones of both Pune and Nashik.
  • Solar Power Project: In March 2024, Torrent Power won a contract from Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Co Ltd (MSEDCL) to build a 306 MW grid-connected solar power project in Nashik.
  • The project is worth Rs 1,540 crore and is expected to be completed within 18 months.
  • The project will be built at 48 locations in Nashik and will have an electricity tariff of Rs 3.10/kWh for 25 years.
  • The project is part of the PM-KUSUM Scheme and the MSKVY 2.0 scheme, and aims to improve connections to the distribution network.
  • Once completed, Torrent’s renewable capacity will increase to 3 GW in the next 18–24 months.
  • Outer Ring Road Project: The Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) is building a 56km outer ring road for Nashik city, which is expected to be completed by 2027.
  • The project is intended to increase connectivity with the city’s outskirts and reduce traffic congestion by allowing heavy vehicles to pass without entering Nashik.
  • The proposed route will connect to the Samruddhi Expressway and Surat-Chennai Expressway.
  • Nashik already has three ring roads that were built over 20 years ago, but due to the city’s rapid development, they now extend within the city.
  • Multi-Modal Transport Hub: Being developed under public-private partnership mode, the Nashik Multi-Modal Logistics Park (MMLP) is a key part of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways’ plan to establish 35 multi-modal logistics parks across India under the PM Gati Shakti National Master Plan.
  • The MMLP’s strategic location was a key factor in its selection, as it aims to optimize the efficiency of goods movements across the country.
  • The MMLP will also act as a terminal for the Neo Metro, the Nashik-Pune high speed train project, and city buses.

Explore in-depth coverage of Lok Sabha Election 2024 Schedule, Voter Turnout, Upcoming Phase And Much More At News18 Website

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