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Uddhav Thackeray and Sharad Pawar Soar on a Sympathetic Surge in Western Maharashtra

Elections to the region hold significant importance as they will determine the true identity of the Shiv Sena and NCP, test the newly formed alliance, and have an impact on the upcoming assembly elections.
Supporters at a Shiv Sena rally. Photo: X/@ShivSenaUBT_

In the realm of Maharashtra politics, a distinct undercurrent has emerged – one that transcends party affiliations and resonates across the state.

It’s not a pro-Congress wave, nor is it a Sharad  Pawar or Uddhav Thackeray wave.

Instead, what we’re witnessing is an unmistakable anti-Bharatiya Janata Party sentiment. Conversations with people in western Maharashtra reveal a deep-seated dissatisfaction with the BJP’s divisive tactics. Voters hold the party responsible for the rift within the Nationalist Congress Party, and a similar sentiment extends to Uddhav Thackeray in the Konkan-Mumbai region. Interestingly, despite the party splits, a large number of the original NCP and Shiv Sena cadres remain loyal to Sharad Pawar and Uddhav Thackeray, respectively. However, there’s a palpable frustration among Shivsainiks (which is what Shiv Sena cadres are called) – they once revered the iconic bow-and-arrow symbol, but now it belongs to the Shiv Sena faction led by Eknath Shinde

Illustration: Pariplab Chakraborty

In Maharashtra, besides the sympathy waves after the spilt of Shiv Sena and NCP, a significant factor at play is that people prioritise local issues over national ones. In rural areas, there is palpable resentment toward the BJP, largely stemming from the agrarian crisis, fair pricing for crops, Goods and Services Tax on agricultural products, and the failure of factories to pay sugarcane dues. 

In discussions regarding the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) and the National Democratic Alliance, both receive commendation, with particular praise directed towards the MVA for its crop loan waiver and effective handling of the COVID-19 crisis over the years. However, there are concerns  among voters regarding the NDA, primarily attributed to the BJP’s perceived role in fracturing regional parties. This messaging has not resonated well with the electorate.

For our case study, we’ll focus on three parliamentary constituencies: Baramati, Shirur, and Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg. 

In the upcoming third phase of the Maharashtra Lok Sabha elections, the spotlight falls on the Western Maharashtra region. On May 7, voters in this crucial battleground will head to the polls to elect their representatives. The stakes are high, with longstanding political dynasties and family feuds taking centre-stage. 

Western Maharashtra has long been a stronghold of the NCP, led by the influential Sharad Pawar. However, this time, the party faces an internal rift. The NCP has split into two factions: NCP (SCP) and NCP (Ajit Pawar). This has resulted in intriguing contests across the region. 


One such seat in the spotlight is the Baramati parliamentary constituency. Here, Supriya Sule,  the incumbent Member of Parliament and daughter of Sharad Pawar, seeks re-election. In the 2019 elections, Sule secured victory by a substantial margin of 1.55 lakh votes, defeating her nearest rival from the BJP, Kanchan Rahul Kul.

However, this time, the dynamics have shifted. Instead of competing against an external opponent, Sule faces an internal family challenge. Ajit Pawar, the nephew of Sharad Pawar and a prominent political figure, has fielded his wife, Sunetra Pawar, as the rival  candidate. The contest has been dubbed “nanad versus bhabi (sister-in-law versus sister-in-law)” by the locals. 

In the lead-up to the elections, tensions have escalated. NCP (Shard Pawar)’s Rohit Pawar has accused Ajit of intimidating voters. Reports suggest that Ajit’s alleged threats  have not resonated well with the electorate either. Shivam, who is a doctor in the local hospital and a keen observer of Western Maharashtra politics, said, “Ajit Pawar has a history of  using strong-arm tactics. In the 2014 general elections, he reportedly warned voters to cast their ballots for the NCP, lest their water supply be cut off.” 

Amidst these allegations and family feuds, “there is a prevailing sentiment of sympathy for Sharad Pawar,” said Shivam. The veteran leader’s influence continues to play a significant  role, especially in Western Maharashtra. As voters head to the polls, the battle for Baramati remains a captivating chapter in Maharashtra’s political saga.  

Also read: Maharashtra: Dalit Ambedkarite Groups Announce Support for Opposition Coalition


In the Shirur parliamentary constituency, there’s a big fight happening  between two groups of the NCP party. One group is led by Sharad Pawar, and the other by his nephew, Ajit. The current MP, Amol Ramsing Kolhe, is on Sharad’s side, while his  opponent, Shivajirao Adhalarao Patil , is supported by Ajit’s faction. 

What’s interesting is that even though many politicians have switched sides to join Ajit, Amol Khole has stayed loyal to Sharad. This has earned him sympathy from the locals, who see him as someone who sticks to his principles. 

Shivajirao Adhalarao Patil used to be enemies with Ajit, but has joined forces with him to defeat Amol Kolhe. This move has upset many people, who see it as a betrayal of family and political values.

Local journalists said that they have noticed that people are not happy with Ajit’s actions, especially his alliances with former enemies. 

When questioned about the transfer of votes from traditional Shiv Sena supporters to the NCP (Ajit Pawar) candidate in this constituency, the local journalist remarked that this does not appear to be occurring. However, when discussing the transfer of traditional Shiv Sena votes to the NCP (Sharad Pawar) candidate, he says it is indeed happening on a significant scale, likely due to sympathy for Uddhav Thackeray. Additionally, Uddhav held a large public rally in support of Amol Kolhe, the NCP (Sharad Pawar) candidate. 

The outcome of the election could have a big impact on Maharashtra’s politics. 

Also read: Farmer Concerns and Ego Hassles Figure in Second Phase of Maharashtra Polls


The Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg parliamentary constituency, situated in the Konkan region, is set to vote on May 7 and is widely regarded as a Shiv Sena stronghold. Vinayak Raut, representing  Shiv Sena (UBT), has served as the MP for two consecutive terms. However, the current electoral landscape presents him with a significant challenge, as the BJP has nominated former CM Narayan Rane as its candidate against Raut.

According to a local journalist, there is a prevailing sentiment among local residents that the Shinde faction of Shiv Sena has yielded to the BJP’s influence, a move that has not been well received by Shiv Sena supporters. The Konkani  community, renowned for its loyalty to Shiv Sena, also holds a substantial presence in Mumbai, where they traditionally align with the party due to their connection with the Thackeray family. 

Kiran Samant brother of Shiv Sena (Shinde) leader and cabinet minister Uday Samant, had been at the forefront for a ticket but this seat went to BJP in the seat-sharing deal. Kiran is very well known among people in this constituency and not giving the ticket to him, has not gone well with his supporters. One of his supporters said, “The party has betrayed Kiran Samant.”

Another factor working in favour of the Shiv Sena (UBT) is the recent statement made by BJP’s Narayan Rane regarding Maratha reservation. He openly opposed the draft proposal to grant Kunbi status to the Maratha community, which has irked the Marathas, who constitute the majority in this parliamentary constituency. 

The Maharashtra election holds significant importance for several reasons. It will determine the true identity of both Shiv Sena and NCP, test the newly formed alliance, and have an impact  on the upcoming assembly elections scheduled for later this year.

Aamir Shakil is a political researcher based in Delhi.

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