Unlike other parts of the State, the saffron colour is conspicuous by its absence in Kalwan with flags and posters of only two political parties visible. The contest in Kalwan in Nashik district is not between Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena combines. Instead, it is a fight between the Communist Party of India Marxist (CPM) and the NCP.
In 2014, J.P. Gavit of the CPM won the Assembly elections beating a senior leader Arjun Pawar of the NCP by a slender margin of 4,700 votes. “The real fight here is between the CPM and the NCP. The Shiv Sena candidate is practically on the side of the NCP candidate,” Mr. Gavit said.
After the demise of Arjun Pawar two years ago, the NCP has fielded his son Rohit for the upcoming elections. “In the last five years Mr. Gavit has been unable to address the issues of the region,” Rohit Pawar said. Mr. Gavit however has criticised the NCP for putting up a candidate against him despite an alliance with it in the State. “NCP as a party has been very devious. First they announce the alliance and then they field a candidate against me, a sitting MLA,” he said.
On the ground, people feel that the election would be a close contest. “Each has their sphere of influence, while Mr. Pawar has a hold on Kalwan, Mr. Gavit has his base in Surgana. Mr. Pawar’s father’s goodwill will help him as well. But the margins will be very narrow,” said Devanang Chavan, who teaches in a college in Kalwan.
Anil Gangurde, a daily wage farm labourer, said among the key issues is the daily wage rate which has dropped in recent months. “Earlier I used to get around ₹400 per day, now it is around ₹300,” he said.
Mr. Chavan said that connectivity and roads were also major issues in the region as both Kalwan and Surgana talukas grapple with a lack of transport options.
The constituency, with around 2.41 lakh votes, is reserved for scheduled tribes (ST) as the majority population living in both talukas belong to tribal communities. Mr. Gavit said a big fear among the residents was the State government’s plan to divert water from west flowing rivers to areas in the east like Marathwada.
“If any Adivasi is affected due to this project, it will never see the light of day,” he said.