A glance at the Lok Sabha candidates of the BJP and its allies in Maharashtra reveals a notable shift. Despite prior criticism of dynastic politics, the BJP now embraces these dynasties. This shift underscores the enduring influence of political legacies in the State.

Once upon a time, Maharashtra’s political landscape was dominated by powerful dynasties, nurtured and revered by the Congress party. These political families held sway from the humble village panchayats to the hallowed halls of Parliament, controlling key sectors like banking, sugar, dairy cooperatives and even local credit societies.

Their influence was so pervasive that the common folk depended on them for almost every aspect of their lives.

However, winds of change swept through the State with the BJP’s rise to power at the Centre in 2014 and the once-cemented control of these dynasties began to crack. To retain their grip, these dynasties made a strategic shift in the last ten years, aligning themselves with the BJP, which welcomed them with open arms. The party, once a vocal critic of dynastic politics, now embraces these very dynasties, granting them candidature. For the common voter, the colours of political flags may change and symbols may evolve, but the faces of politics remain eerily familiar — a testament to the enduring power of political legacies in Maharashtra.

Dynastic power

Many dynasties have shifted their loyalties to the BJP in recent times. There are Patils in Ahmednagar, Sangli, Pune, Osmanabad, who have coloured themselves in saffron hue along with Mahadiks in Kolhapur, Bhosales in Satara, Pichads in Ahmednagar, Kshirsagars in Beed and Naiks in Thane and many more.

Sujay Vikhe-Patil (Ahmednagar), Heena Gavit (Nandurbar), Sanjay Patil (Sangli) are among the BJP candidates whose families have thrived during the Congress rule. Also, senior Congress leaders Harshwardhan Patil and Ashok Chavan are with the BJP and former Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil Chakurkar’s daughter-in-law has joined the BJP. BJP’s list of candidates also features its home-grown dynastic leaders, including Pankaja Munde, Bharti Pawar, Piyush Goyal, Raksha Khadse, Anup Dhotre and Smita Wagh.

BJP is also strongly supporting dynasties in its alliance partners — Nationalist Congress Party (NCP-Ajit Pawar) and Shiv Sena (Eknath Shinde). Ajit Pawar’s wife Sunetra is contesting from Baramati and Sunetra’s relative, Archana Patil, is contesting from Dharashiv. Eknath Shinde’s son is in the fray from Kalyan constituency while other dynastic leaders, including Dhairyasheel Mane, Sanjay Mandlik, Hemant Pati and Shrirang Barn are fighting to retain their legacy with the help of the BJP.

Unchanged reality

“For years, the Vikhe-Patil family has reigned supreme in Ahmednagar’s political arena, deftly switching allegiances between ruling parties while maintaining an iron grip on local politics. For the common folk, there seems to be no alternative, as this family always aligns itself with the reigning power,” remarks Ratnakar Gaikwad, a daily wage worker.

“The scenario in Ahmednagar mirrors what’s happening across the State. In every district, specific families have held sway for generations by aligning with the ruling parties. Today, all these dynasties are firmly entrenched with the BJP, but they’ll swiftly switch back to the Congress if the BJP loses its grip on power,” adds Ratna Jounjal, a farmer.