Crippling Drought, Farm Distress, Forest rights, MSP for Onions/Tomatoes: Key issues in Phase 4, Maharashtra

The fourth phase of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls are being seen as a decisive phase. The changed stance of the BJP leadership, especially prime minister, Narendra Modi, have been curious suggesting that some warning bells may be ringing for the ruling dispensation. With the next round due on April 29, the regions that will be voting are in the all important state of Maharashtra are: the Mumbai Metropolitan region, cities like Nashik and the tribal-rural belt in north-west Maharashtra.

Image Courtesy: PTI

Last time round, this belt had succumbed to the Modi wave and voted in favour of the BJP and Shiv Sena alliance. Forty-two of the 48 LokSabha seat went to their kitty. Within six months however, this alliance had split on issues of seat sharing. In this election, the opposition parties will try to take advantage of the discontent between traders, farmers, lower and middle income groups on issues and policy measures such as demonetization, implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), slowdown in the realty sector, farm unrest over non-profitable minimum support prices for the farm produce and increase in unemployment.

What are the issues plaguing rural Maharashtra? Sabrangindiahad presented an overview of the urban Maharashtra constituencies that are scheduled to poll on April 29.Here, we discuss some key constituencies in rural Maharashtra.
The Indian Express reports from the ground assessing, that, if minimum support price for oilseeds and pulses and cane dues were the issues in the first three phases of polling in Maharashtra, the final phase on Monday will see large swathes of the state’s tomato and onion-growing belt going to polls.
The tribal district of Nandurbar has remote villages with no connectivity and high malnutrition rates. This is a district lying at the northernmost part of Maharashtra. The district is drought affected and faces challenges when it comes to accessibility, mainly because of the Satpuda mountain range and Narmada backwaters. Anemia is widely prevalent in the region with large scale migrations. As per a study published exclusively in SabrangIndia, the total share of voters who are impacted by the recent upheavals in the Forest Rights Act, 2006, amounts to a large chunk of more than 30 percent.

The study highlighted that in 2014, of all the constituencies with a large tribal population, as many as 59 % across India had voted for the BJP. However the conduct of the NDA II government at the centre and the BJP-RSS ruled governments in several states –coupled with very real fears of eviction of forest dwellers from their homes, following a Supreme Court order (February 13, 2019),during which the Centre was sharply criticised for its silence during the prolonged proceedings, could push voters towards opposition parties. Following the said order, the Adivasis in Maharashtra also marched for their rights on March 5.

The Nandurbar constituency consists of six Assembly segments namely — Akkalkuva, Shahada, Nandurbar, Navapur, Sakri and Shirpur. of which four MLAs are from Congress and two from the BJP. The parliamentary seat from the constituency is reserved for scheduled tribe candidate. Nandurbar had reported around 66% voting in 2014 general elections. The district is known for Pavra Adivasi dance. Other castes that inhabit the land include Mavchi Gavit, Mathwadi, Kokani, Bhil, Vasave.

This constituency will see a tough fight between Heena Gavit, daughter of Dr. Vijaykumar Gavit, former NCP leader and now a BJP MLA from Nandurbar and Congress’ KC Padvi, six time MLA from the region and a popular MLA from the region known for his appeal amongst Adivasis. Suhas Natwadkar is contesting as an independent MLA after contesting 2004 and 2009 elections unsuccessfully.

Thousands of Onion farmers in Nashik region had their fortune changed since 2015, going from being at the top of the market, getting high prices for their crop, to being to dump their crops on the road.

70% of total onion production in the district comes from the six assembly constituencies that make up the Lok Sabha seat of Dindori. Three of the six assembly constituencies In Nashik LS seat are from the same rural belt. Hence, onion farmers are being believed to have a serious impact on poll outcomes this time.

Per Indian Express, this year’s drought has brought down onion acreage to 3.5 lakh hectares, but this has not helped improve prices. Markets in Pimpalgaon and Lasalgaon, the country’s largest onion market, are currently reporting average prices of Rs 9-10 per kg, a sharp contrast from prices in January last year when prices hovered around Rs 30 per kg.

Onion growing areas have witnessed large farmers’ agitations, and soon after BJP’s rout in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, the state government announced a Rs 150-crore subsidy scheme for onion growers. Another round of government procurement is underway too, but nothing has pushed up the prices.

Agrarian distress remains a key issue for parties such as Congress, CPM and NCP. The all crippling drought that has found no ‘media takers’ in terms of issue analysis and assessment this election season, the crash in wholesale prices of farm produce, load shedding and inadequate power supply are main issues facing the farmers.

The state secretary of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), Dr. Ajit Navale highlights that the farmers in the region had to face huge losses due to crash in wholesale onion prices. Moreover the government gave only paltry grants to farmers and didn’t adopt any long term solutions to resolve the agrarian crisis looming over the region.

The region is also being watched for farmers’ leader JP Gavit, who will be contesting from the Dindori LS. Gavit has worked tirelessly in Dindori, Surgana and Kalwan and has been the MLA for seven times. The region also faces serious water challenges. Gavit has been consistently working to get some of these issues resolved.

Located in Nashik region, Dindori has a large population of Scheduled Tribes (36%). Dindori constituency was created on February 19, 2008 as a part of the implementation of the Presidential notification based on the recommendations of the Delimitation Commission of India constituted July 12, 2002. Dindori comprises of six Vidhan Sabha segments namely, Nandgaon, Kalvan, Chandwad, Yevla, Niphad and Dindori.

Surgana, a taluka in the Nashik district, is known for the program “Doorstep Ration Scheme” initiated by the CPI (M). A success story is that this scheme has been implemented in two-thirds of the 291 revenue villages in Surgana Tehsil. Many women farmers who walked in the long march seemed to believe that this reduced large-scale corruption in the PDS.

Palghar is a mixed rural and urban constituency, linked to Mumbai in the south by its suburban train network, and bordering Gujarat on its north. Palghar was created in 2008 after a delimitation exercise. Along with Mumbai and parts of northern Maharashtra, Palghar votes in the fourth phase of the elections, on April 29.Palghar is one of the most watched out constituencies in this phase of elections.

Rajendra Gavit is the MP from Palghar. He left the Congress in 2018 to contest the Palghar bye-poll on a BJP ticket. He has now joined the Shiv Sena, which is in alliance with the BJP, to contest from the seat again.The incumbent MP Baliram Jadhav lost to BJP’s Chintaman Vanaga by over 2 lakh votes in 2014. In the 2018 by-elections after Vanaga’s death, the BJP fielded former Congress state minister much to the angst of its partner Shiv Sena. The Sena wanted to field Vanaga’s son instead. Gavit emerged victorious, albeit a reduced margin of under 30,000 votes. Now, the Sena has fielded Gavit on their ticket while the BVA is being supported by the Congress-NCP alliance.

With the completion of polling for the Pune and Baramati constituencies, political parties have now shifted their focus to Maval and Shirur constituencies in Pune district which will vote on April 29.
The Shirdi Lok Sabha constituency in Maharashtra was created in February 2008 as a part of the implementation of the Delimitation Commission of India recommendations.Shirdi, one of the two Lok Sabha constituencies in Ahmednagar district, first held elections in 2009 and its first member of parliament (MP) was Bhausaheb Rajaram Wakchaure of Shiv Sena.

Key Constituencies in rural Maharashtra

1. Nandurbar Lok Sabha Constituency
Total electors: 16,72,715
Reserved Scheduled Tribes
Assembly Constituencies: Akkalkuwa (ST), Shahada (ST), Nandurbar (ST), Nawapur (ST), Sakri (ST), Shirpur (ST)
Veteran Congress tribal leader Manikrao Hodlya Gavit held the seat from 1984 to 2014. However, he lost to BJP’s Heena Vaijaykumar Gavit in 2014, one of the youngest MPs in the Lok Sabha.

2. Dhule Lok Sabha Constituency
Total electors: 16,74,469
Assembly constituencies: Dhule Rural, Dhule City, Sindhkheda, Malegaon (Central), Malegaon (Outer), Baglan (ST)
BJP’s Ramdas Rupla Gavit won the seat in 1999 but lost it to Congress candidate Chaure Bapu Hari in 2004. Since 2009, BJP has clung to the seat. Subhash Bhamre of the BJP is the sitting MP since 2014.The constituency is spread across Nashik district and parts of Dhule district. The population of Nashik district is 61.07 lakh, comprising 31.57 lakh males and 29.5 lakh females. Hindus constitute 85.75 percent of the population, while Muslims are in the minority with 11.35 percent. The population in Dhule district is close to 20.51 lakh where 63.09 percent of the people are literate. Muslim votes are sought after in this constituency.

3. Dindori Lok Sabha Constituency
Constituency number: 20
Total electors: 15,30,139
Reserved: Yes. For Scheduled Tribes
Assembly constituencies: Nandgaon, Kalwan (ST), Chandwad, Yevla, Niphad, Dindori (ST).
BJP’s Harishchandra Chavan has been the MP since 2009.
It is spread across parts of Nashik district. The major tribal groups in the region are Katkari, Kokna, Koli Mahadeo, Koli Malhar, Thakar, Warli and Dubla. As per Census 2011, Nashik district has a population of 6107187 people. It has an ST population of 1564369, according to the 2011 Census.

4. Nashik Lok Sabha Constituency
Constituency number: 21
Total electors: 15,93,237The constituency is spread acrosedia Commons
Assembly constituencies: Sinnar, Nashik East, Nashik Central, Nashik West, Deolali (SC), Igatpuri (ST)
Shiv Sena’s Uttamrao Dhikale became the MP in 2009. However, NCP’s Devidas Hingale won in 2004. In 2009, NCP’s Sameer Bhujbal won the seat and in 2014 he was succeeded by Shiv Sena leader Hemant Tukaram Godse.It is spread across parts of Nashik district. Though a Hindu-majority district, it has a sizeable Muslim population of 6.93 lakh people. Its literacy rate is 82.3 percent, as per Census 2011.

5. Palghar Lok Sabha Constituency
Total electors: 1578077
Female electors: 7,47,645
Male electors: 8,30,432
Reserved: Yes. For Scheduled Tribes
Assembly constituencies: Dahanu (ST), Vikramgad (ST), Palghar (ST), Boisar (ST), Nalasopara, Vasai
In 2009, Bahujan Vikas Aaghadi leader Baliram Sukur Jadhav won the seat but lost the seat to Chintaman Wanga of the BJP in 2014. BJP’s Rajendra Gavit won the bypoll after Wanga passed away in January 2018.
The constituency has a significant population of tribals, with four out of the six Assembly segments being reserved for candidates belonging to Scheduled Tribes. Due to proximity to Mumbai, areas like Vasai and Virar are largely urbanised. The Catholic community is an influential community in Vasai, which is why the Shiv Sena is going to extra mile to woo the religious minority.

6. Bhiwandi Lok Sabha Constituency
Total electors: 16,96,589
Assembly constituencies: Bhiwandi Rural (ST), Shahapur (ST), Bhiwandi East, Bhiwandi West, Kalyan West, Murbad
Congress leader Suresh Taware won the seat in 2009 but BJP’s Kapil Moreshwar Patil succeeded him in 2014.
Once known for being a Muslim-dominated constituency, post-delimitation Bhiwandi has a different demographic matrix where caste also plays a major role. While Bhiwandi West is Muslim dominated, Bhiwandi East and Kalyan West are dominated by Agri and Koli voters. Assembly segments like Bhiwandi Rural and Murbad have a sizeable population of the Kunbis.



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