Maharashtra’s State Assembly elections were held on 21st October. The results of the poll will be declared on 24th October. Although, the exit polls have suggested a sweeping victory for the right-wing alliance, largely referred to as Mahayuti (Mainly comprising of Bharatiya Janata Party and Shivsena), some of the constituencies might have a tough battle between the right-wing party Bharatiya Janata Party, (BJP,) and centre-left party Indian National Congress (INC).
One such constituency is the northern Maharashtra district, Nandurbar, which has been traditionally a reserved constituency for the Scheduled Tribe (ST). Nandurbar and Palghar are usually referred to as the Adivasi or Tribal districts of Maharashtra. So, what’s the political history of Nandurbar district? How does it swing, the right or left way? In this article, I try to understand how a particular constituency changes its ideology. Or does the ideology matter at all to the common man?
Nandurbar was a part of Dhule district until Dhule was bifurcated in two districts, on 1st July 1998, making Nandurbar a separate district. Nandurbar is bestowed with the wide range of the Satpura Hills, which serve as a nest to the tribal population. The majority of the tribal population live in villages around 6 Talukas: Nandurbar, Shahada, Navapur, Taloda, Akkalkuwa and Dhadgaon. Nandurbar has one Parliamentary constituency and 6 Assembly constituencies, all of them reserved for Scheduled Tribes (ST).
To understand how a tribal district votes, studying the political history of Nandurbar was necessary. So with little help of Wikipedia, I found out how Nandurbar voted in all Parliamentary elections until now. Here’s a picture :
The picture brings us to an interesting conclusion, that out of the 19 Parliamentary elections, (including by-polls and 1952 elections, where 2 MPs were elected), the Indian National Congress has come out victorious 15 times. Manikrao Gavit, a member of INC has won the parliamentary elections 9 times, which is a record yet to be broken. The history clearly states that Nandurbar has always been an INC bastion. But when you look at the two results at the bottom of the picture, that’s where the interesting part begins.
Heena Gavit, the current MP of Nandurbar district, is serving her 2nd term. She happens to be the daughter of Dr. Vijaykumar Gavit, who has been a member of the Legislative Assembly since 1995. Gavit was earlier a member of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), which happens to be an ally of INC. But amidst the accusation of corruption around 2014, Gavit quit NCP and joined the rival party BJP. This has changed the entire equation of politics in Nandurbar district, for which the Modi Wavein 2014 was equally responsible. Since then, BJP has come out victorious, in both Parliamentary and Assembly elections, in the tribal district.
The voting pattern seems really absurd when we look at these recent changes that have taken place in the politics of Nandurbar. The district that voted INC for decades has switched its loyalty. Was it an ideological change? Doesn’t look like that. Was it a strategic change? Maybe. Nandurbar seems to be trying other alternatives to make their voices heard.
Will Nandurbar bestow it’s loyalty towards the BJP, the way it has done earlier for INC? Will Nandurbar make a strategic change again, to get back to the old INC? Only time will tell. On 24th October, we will know. We will know if Nandurbar surprises one more time or chooses to be the loyal one; something it’s been always known for.