Pune, the district that represented the face of the Pawars’ dominance of western Maharashtra, has given the NCP the most striking jolts in the region.
Of the 21 seats in the district, the NCP held seven while two others were associated with the party, though not elected on an NCP ticket. The party has now been left with only three seats. It is the losses in Pune that have set the NCP back in the region, where its tally has fallen from 24 of 70 seats to 19 .
One of the three seats the NCP won in Pune district is Baramati, where Ajit Pawar won comfortably. Among the other two is Ambegaon, won by former assembly speaker Dilip Walse-Patil. The third was unexpected, with the NCP wresting Indapur from Congress strongman Harshwardhan Patil in a close contest. The Pawars and the Patils have been contesting for over three decades for supremacy of the region.
The setbacks in Pune have led to a spate of resignations, and calls for the sacking of a few leaders, for “serious introspection” in the face of a saffron surge and the rise of the MIM, and for adopting aggressive advertising techniques like the BJP does.
The NCP finished third in many seats. In those where it finished second, the margin was often high. “The Baramati and Ambegaon victories prove the NCP’s existence. The third one shows the NCP has it in it to make it big. But overall the results show the NCP has crumbled in its bastion like never before,” says analyst Sarang Kamtekar.
In Pune city, where the NCP rules the municipal corporation in alliance with the Congress, it held one seat, Vadgaonsheri, but the BJP has now swept all eight seats. In Kasba Peth in the city, the NCP candidate finished fourth. In Kothrud, the NCP candidate finished third. In Pune Cantonment, the NCP candidate was fifth, polling some 10 times less than the BJP’s.
In Pimpri-Chinchwad, where the NCP rules the civic body on its own, it lost all three assembly seats. Two of its candidates finished third. In 2009, one MLA was with the NCP and the other two associated with it, including Ajit Pawar’s aide Laxman Jagtap.
The setbacks began during the Lok Sabha polls. In Baramati, one of the four Lok Sabha seats of the district, Supriya Sule saw her 2009 margin of 3.25 lakh votes slip to 70,000. In Maval and Shirur, the NCP lost by over three lakh votes.
Apart from the three new MLAs and the lone Lok Sabha MP, the NCP now has two MLCs and a Rajya Sabha MP from Pune. It continues to dominate the Pune zilla parishad with 45 members out of 75. It also controls a number of gram panchayats.
The NCP’s Pimpri-Chinchwad chief, Yogesh Behl, an aide of Ajit Pawar, has submitted his resignation owning responsibility for the defeats in the town. The party also plans to sack a few corporators who supported rival candidates in Bhosari and Chinchwad.
In a post on Facebook on Monday, Vandana Chavan, the NCP’s Pune president, called for drastic measures to tone up the party rank and file. “It is our worst debacle and we need to seriously introspect as to what went wrong. We need to take urgent corrective steps,” Chavan told The Indian Express on Tuesday.