Lok Sabha polls: Shivaji's descendants to slug it out for Congress and BJP in Maharashtra

All eyes will be on Shahu Chhatrapati and Udayan Raje Bhosale

shahu-udayan Udayan Raje Bhosale (left); Shahu Chhatrapati

It is now official. Two descendants of Maratha warrior king Shivaji are contesting elections from Maharashtra on two rival sides. Kolhapur royal family head Shahu Chhatrapati is contesting from Kolhapur on a Congress ticket while Udayan Raje Bhosale, the 13th descendent of Shivaji, has been given a BJP ticket from Satara.

The Satara royal family traces its origin to Sambhaji Maharaj, the elder son of Chhatrapati Shivaji, and Kolhapur royal family traces its origins to Rajaram Maharaj, the younger son of Shivaji. In the post Shivaji history of Maharashtra, it was the Satara kingdom which grew into Maratha empire with the Peshwas as its prime ministers and Shahu Maharaj (grandson of Shivaji) as the king. On the other hand, Kolhapur remained a small but independent kingdom. Social reformer king Shahu Maharaj, who allowed reservations in jobs and education for the first time in India in 1902, was the king of Kolhapur.

In the Lok Sabha elections, Shahu Chhatrapati of Kolhapur will be up against Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Mandlik, who has declared that he will win by a margin of more than one lakh votes. Mandlik’s father Sadashivrao had defeated Sambhajiraje Chhatrapati (son of Shahu Chhatrapti) in 2009 Lok Sabha election when the royal family scion was NCP candidate, while Mandalik, once close aide of Sharad Pawar, had rebelled and contested as an independent.

In case of Satara, Udayan Raje Bhosale is contesting on BJP ticket against senior NCP leader and legislator Shashikant Shinde. Udayan was defeated by NCP’s Shriniwas Patil, a former IAS officer and close friend of Sharad Pawar, in 2019 elections. Following his defeat, Udayan was nominated to Rajya Sabha by the BJP. Udayan has always been close to the BJP and he was a minister from BJP in Maharashtra’s first Shiv Sena-BJP government from 1995-1999. In 1999, he was arrested when NCP corporator Sharad Leve was murdered in Satara at the time of assembly elections. He was later acquitted of the charges. Udayan had briefly joined the NCP but came back to BJP as he crossed paths with Ajit Pawar.

As the Satara seat was won by NCP, Ajit Pawar faction had staked claim on the seat. Ajit wanted Udayan to contest on NCP ticket but Udayan was firm that he will contest only on BJP ticket and if the seat doest not go to BJP in the seat sharing, he had announced that he will contest as independent. With BJP pocketing the seat and announcing Udayan’s candidature, it will be interesting to see if Ajit Pawar’s NCP cadre supports Udayan in the upcoming election.

The NCP, too, had urged senior Congress leader and former Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan to contest on NCP ticket from Satara. Chavan was firm that he will contest only on Congress ticket. Hence, the NCP has now picked up Shashikant Shinde, once a close aide of Ajit Pawar, who has remained loyal to Sharad Pawar post the split in the NCP.

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