At a time when the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is projecting Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s demonetisation initiative as an effective strike to curb black money, elections to fill six Legislative Council seats threw up several combinations.
Election results for the polls for the six seats — Yavatmal, Bhandara-Gondia (Vidarbha), Sangli-Satara, Pune (Western Maharashtra), Jalgaon (North Maharashtra) and Nanded-Waghala — were announced Tuesday. While the results jolted the Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) which failed to retain three out of four seats it had been representing, political analysts said large scale cross-voting emerged as the mainstay in these elections.
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In Yavatmal, Shiv Sena’s Tanaji Sawant, a sugar baron from Marathwada’s Osmanabad, wrested the seat defeating Congress’s Shankar Bade and sitting NCP legislator Sandeep Bajoria. The margin of his victory was the telling blow. Sawant, the outsider, polled 348 votes, against Bade’s 78, while Bajoria polled just two votes. The BJP had supported Sawant’s candidature before hand. Incidentally, sensing the race had slipped away from him, NCP’s Bajoria, too, had at the last moment endorsed Sawant’s candidature.
A similar tale emerged from Bhandara-Gondia too. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’s handpick Parinay Fuke, a corporator in the Nagpur municipality and vice-president of BJP’s Nagpur unit, won from an alien constituency, exploiting the rift between the Congress and the NCP. Senior NCP leader Praful Patel’s close associate and incumbent legislator Rajendra Jain had been renominated by the party, but the Congress fielded MLA Gopaldas Agarwal’s son Praful, making the win possible for Fuke and the BJP.
In Satara-Sangli, Mohanrao Kadam, an education baron and brother of former Congress minister Patangrao Kadam, upset NCP’s Shekhar Gore to wrest the seat. The Satara-Sangli seat was seen as a fortress for the NCP. Party insiders confirmed that the NCP had been divided on Gore’s candidature. Ajit Pawar had pushed for Gore’s candidature amid objections raised by local heavyweights Jayant Patil and Udayanraje Bhonsale. Talks between the Congress and the NCP for a pre-poll arrangement had broken off over the Yavatmal and Satara-Sangli seats.
Though the Congress retained the Nanded-Waghala seat, independent candidate Shyamsunder Shinde, a retired bureaucrat, managed to poll votes from Shiv Sena, BJP, and NCP councillors to give party candidate Amar Rajurkar a scare. The seat is a bastion of state Congress chief and former chief minister Ashok Chavan. While Rajukar polled 251 votes, Shinde was not far behind with 208 votes. Rajurkar had been elected unopposed the last time.
The BJP retained the Jalgaon seat with its candidate Chandulal Patel winning convincingly. In the run-up to elections, an internal struggle had ensued within the BJP after the incumbent legislator Gurmukh Jagwani, a close-associate of former minister Eknath Khadse, was denied a renomination at the last moment. Khadse’s party rival and sitting BJP minister Girish Mahajan had propped up Patel, a builder. Khadse had aired his disappointment over the party’s decision, pointing out that Patel did not even have the party’s primary membership. The state BJP, however, heaved a sigh of relief when the results showed that the internal struggle hadn’t impacted the poll’s outcome. The only solace for the NCP was that the party managed to retain the Pune seat. Party’s sitting legislator Anil Bhonsale won the race convincingly.
No sooner had the poll results been announced, the blame game between the Congress and the NCP started. While the NCP blamed the money power and the Congress for their poor performance, the later hit back. “Had the NCP not played truant and struck a pre-poll understanding with us, the outcome would have been different. Both parties would have won three seats each.”
The BJP and the Shiv Sena were not complaining. While the NCP is still the largest party in the Legislative Council with 23 seats in the 78-member House, the Congress now has 20 members, followed by the BJP (18) and the Shiv Sena (9).
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