It was considered to be a stronghold of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, but the entry of PWD and Tourism Minister and NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal has changed the dynamics in Nashik constituency. Other important faces in the fray are Hemant Godse of Shiv Sena, Dr Pradeep Pawar of MNS and Vijay Pandhare of the Aam Aadmi Party. The city goes to polls on April 24.
NCP cadres were unhappy when the party decided to elevate Bhujbal, a local MLS, to a central role, fuelling rumours that he was being sidelines. However, NCP boss Sharad Pawar put the speculations to rest when he said that Bhujbal would be "taking my place in the Lok Sabha".
A candidate with experience at grass-roots level, Bhujbal is known for his campaign management. Thanks to his planning, his nephew Sameer Bhujbal, a novice then, won the 2009 Lok Sabha polls from Nashik. But allegations of corruption, CAG observations and Modi wave are big hurdles in front of the 66-year-old year leader.
To counter Bhujbal, Sena has fielded Hemant Godse, an engineer and builder by profession. Godse is a prominent face in the zilla parishad. Contesting as an MNS ticket, Godse had lost the last elections by only 22,000 votes. He then moved to the Sena, apparently unhappy with the MNS over the civic body elections. He may not be a good orator, but Godse can bank on his community and his work in the district. He can also hope to garner the votes of Modi supporters.
The MNS nominees from the constituency is Dr Pradeep Pawar, a well-known gynaecologist. Pawar, who hails from Kalwan-Malegaon-Deola belt, is likely get votes from his area. Factors like 'new face', intellectual tag and no criminal past may enthuse those who want 'clean' politics to choose him. However, his party's poor performance in the corporation may go against him.
Former engineer Vijay Pandhare, who is contesting on an AAP ticket, had in 2012 sent the state government into a tizzy with his sensational claims of corruption in the water resource department. This had led to senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar quitting from the post of deputy chief minister. Despite corruption being the main agenda, confusion created after Kejriwal's resignation as the Delhi CM and the party's national foray, has reduced AAP's supporter base.
Sitting Congress corporator Dinkar Patil, who defected to BSP to contest elections, is likely to eat into the Dalit votes and gain the support of those who oppose Bhujbal.
The Cong-NCP looks united as far as Nashik is concerned. It glorifies the history that Nashik had sent Yashwantrao Chavan to Delhi as unopposed from this constituency. The NCP enjoys a good support from the farmers, while earlier MPs in the city had come from Congress. Until Balasaheb was at the helm of affairs, Nashik was a Sena bastion. The city then was taken by Raj Thackeray-led MNS wave. It remains to be seen as to whom Nashik will choose as its representative to Delhi.