Splits in key political parties Shiv Sena and NCP have made the battle for the 48 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra more interesting, besides the focus on traditional issues like unemployment and farmer suicides. Lok Sabha polls in Maharashtra will be held in five phases on April 19, April 26, May 7, May 13 and May 20. Counting of votes will be held on June 4.

The BJP-Shiv Sena won 41 of the 48 seats in the 2019 polls, but the Sena has split since and a vast majority of the Bal Thackeray-founded party is now allied with the BJP. The Nationalist Congress Party also split as well with Ajit Pawar joining the ruling alliance in the state, led by Eknath Shinde. In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP emerged the top party with 23 seats, followed by the undivided Sena with 18. The undivided NCP had emerged victorious on four seats, the Congress one, while the AIMIM and an Independent accounted for the remaining two.

A total of 9.2 crore persons, including more than 50,000 centenarians, are eligible to exercise their franchise in the ensuing Lok Sabha elections in Maharashtra, an increase of 34 lakh from 2019. Here is how the political landscape in various regions of Maharashtra looks like ahead of the ensuing Lok Sabha elections.

Konkan: The coastal region of the state includes Mumbai, the country’s commercial capital with six highly urbanised Lok Sabha seats, where issues include woes related to transportation, housing and jobs. The BJP-Sena had won 12 of the 13 seats in the region in 2019. While the Shiv Sena (UBT) could attract some sympathy post the split, other issues all parties will have to contend with are plans to construct a massive refinery and nuclear power plant in Ratnagiri area and a mega port in Vadhavan near Dahanu in Palghar.

Western Maharashtra: One of the most developed regions in the state, it is home to industrial cities with information technology hubs as well as sugar mills, ethanol plants and agri-rich rurban (land on the edge of a town or city, on which new housing and businesses are being built) pockets. The region receives ample rainfall but unequal distribution of water among various areas has been a traditional bone of contention. The split in the NCP, a strong contender in the region, and the Shiv Sena means the upcoming polls will ensure focus on candidates as much as party ideology due to fresh realignments. In the 209 polls, the BJP won five seats, while the Shiv Sena and the Sharad Pawar-founded Nationalist Congress Party won three each from this region.

North Maharashtra: This region is among the country’s top sources of grapes and onions, making it a hotbed for discontent in connection to changes in export-import policies for farm produce. Inadequate or unseasonal rainfall is another bugbear that can change the discourse. The region has a significant population of tribals and backward segments. In the 2019 polls, the BJP-Shiv Sena won all six seats in the region. Marathwada: The region is infamous for lack of adequate rainfall, which has left it under-developed when compared to other parts of Maharashtra, leading to unemployment woes. Unseasonal rains and crop loss are annual phenomena, resulting in sharp surges of discontent among farmers. Apart from the industrial hub of Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar (formerly Aurangabad), the rest of the region is rural and lacks basic amenities. Speedy highway construction has boosted transportation. In 2019, the BJP won four Lok Sabha seats, followed by three for its ally Shiv Sena.

The Aurangabad seat was won by the Asaduddin Owaisi-led AIMIM. Maratha quota activist Manoj Jarange hails from Marathwada and has a following in the region as was seen during many of his protests in the last few months. Vidarbha: Blessed with abundant natural resources and forests, the region in the eastern part of the state, however, has been in limelight for farmer suicides.

Left Wing Extremism is also a problem in some parts, mainly in Gadchiroli. There are also problems of human-wildlife conflicts in districts like Chandrapur, home to a sizable number of tigers. Soybean and cotton produce not fetching good returns could lead to agricultural distress in the region.

Moreover, several MP’s from the area were those who retained their seats, which means they may face anti-incumbency in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. Of the 11 Lok Sabha seats in Vidarbha, the BJP won five, Shiv Sena three, while Congress and an Independent emerged victorious on one seat each in the last elections.

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