The people in Maharashtra’s Beed, an important constituency in Marathwada, will vote today to elect their next MP. Both the major contenders—the incumbent MP Pritam Munde and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) candidate Bajrang Sonawane — campaigned here in full swing. However, both their campaigns relied more onto legacy than key issues like farmer suicides or water scarcity in the area.
The current MP of Beed, Pritam Munde, won the 2014 by-polls after the demise of her father, former union minister Gopinath Munde. Pritam won the election on a BJP ticket and managed a historical margin of almost 7 lakh votes against Congress leader Ashok Patil. Sonawane, who is fielded by the NCP, has often attacked Munde for not working towards development in the last five years. Interestingly, Dhananjay Munde, a cousin of Pritam, campaigned for Sonawane for these polls.
A look at the trends in the previous elections shows that the BJP holds an upper hand among all parties in the region because of its late OBC leader Gopinath Munde, who engineered the voter fabric here in party's favour.
Gopinath was a two-time MP from the same constituency. He defeated Suresh Dhas and Ramesh Kokate of NCP in 2014 and 2009 respectively. On both occasions, he had the lead of over one lakh votes.
It was Jaysingrao Gaikwad Patil who held the seat for three consecutive terms before Gopinath. He won the seat for the BJP in 1998 and 1999. In 2004, he secured the seat for the NCP with his third victory.
Of the 12 Lok Sabha polls in the constituency, six were won by the saffron party. The Congress-NCP scored vote seats and the JD and CPI managed to win one election each.
The composition of the population is one key factor that will directly affect the voting pattern in the constituency. Almost 80 per cent of the population comes from rural backgrounds. Of the total 19,57,132 voters, there are 9,17,343 female voters and 10,39,789 male voters.
The caste composition of the Beed makes this election all the more unpredictable. Maratha and Wanjari, the two dominant communities, have clear power to sway the mandate. Both the groups have almost 15 per cent share in the total electorate. Along with this, the OBCs form a huge chunk with a 30 per cent share.
Pritam Munde is expected to get support due to the Wanjari and OBC mobilisation that her father had done during his tenure. This can help her garner votes easily as per caste calculations. However, Sonawane -- who is supported by another Munde scion -- can also fetch some votes for these groups.
The SC/ST communities, which form around 18 per cent vote share, could also be decisive in this election. The Muslims have 5 per cent share while all the other castes contribute to the rest of the 15 per cent.
Vinayak Mete of the Shivsangram Party — a representative of Marathas — has also supported NCP in Beed. Interestingly, the NCP is in an alliance with BJP in other districts. Mete has a huge support of Maratha farmer community in the region.
The farmer suicides have been one major issue in the Beed district. There were 207 suicides in the district last year and the number is the highest in the last many years. The historic loan waiver of Rs 72,000 crore by the state government could also not make a dent in number of farmer suicides. Also, the water scarcity in the area has affected the crop production, thus fermenting a disenchantment against the ruling BJP.
Apart from all these factors, what gives the BJP an additional advantage is that it holds five out of six assembly seats in the constituency. It has its MLA in Parli, Kaij, Ashti, Majalgaon and Georai. The Beed constituency, however, is held by an NCP candidate.