AFTER A fiercely contested electoral battle in which the Centre’s demonetisation policy dominated the campaign, the BJP Monday delivered a setback to the Congress and NCP in Maharashtra, making significant gains in the local body elections for 147 municipal councils and 17 nagar panchayats. On the defensive over reservation for Marathas, the BJP had presented the demonetisation policy as a clean-up of the system. All the mainstream parties had called these polls a “mini-assembly election”.
The outcome, which came on a day when Opposition parties were protesting the demonetisation policy, was described by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his official Twitter account as “a win for pro-poor & development politics of BJP”. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who led the BJP campaign, said, “The results… are supporting the government’s drive against corruption through demonetisation. The anti-demonetisation campaign of the Congress-NCP appears to have failed.”
Maharashtra Congress chief Ashok Chavan alleged the BJP’s success was due to “money and muscle power”. “We will analyse our shortcoming,” said Chavan. With the government introducing direct elections for the post of president in the 147 municipal councils, the BJP won 52 seats, Shiv Sena 23, Congress 19, NCP 16 and others 28.
The BJP also surged ahead in elections for the 3,510 municipal council member seats, held on party lines, in the Congress-NCP bastions, specially in western Maharashtra. The party-wise tally: BJP (851), Shiv Sena (514), NCP (638), Congress (643), MNS (16), BSP (9), CPM (12), local coalitions (384), Independents (324), unrecognised members (119). In 2011, the BJP was nowhere in the reckoning in 127 out of 147 municipal councils, with its tally at 298 compared to Congress (771), NCP (916) and Shiv Sena (264).