The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has made huge electoral losses across 25 zilla parishads with its overall tally showing a decline from 511 to 346 seats. The number one position held by the NCP has gone to BJP, which rose from the fourth rank taking its numbers from 165 seats to 400 seats. Even in western Maharashtra, the NCP’s bastion, it may have retained its lead in zilla parishad, but its seats declined from 195 to 154 across the sugar belt of Ahmednagar, Sangli, Satara, Pune, Kolhapur and Solapur. The biggest gain in the sugar belt has been recorded by the BJP, which increased its number of seats seven times from 10 to 75.
In 2012, the total seats of the BJP in these six zilla parishads was only 10. In Sangli, Satara and Solapur it had not won any in the last elections. The state senior NCP leadership told The Indian Express that it will review the poll results to ascertain where it went wrong and what were the factors that worked against the party.
However, several leaders spoken to argued that despite a decline in the overall number of seats, at least in 10 to 12 zilla parishads the NCP along with Congress will be in a position to take reins of the zilla parishad to keep the BJP and Shiv Sena out of power. The NCP has established a clear lead in Parbhani, Beed, Osmanabad, Pune, Satara and Solapur. But the biggest setback was in Sangli where it gave way to BJP as the leading party.
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While taking the loss for the party in stride, NCP (MP) and leader Supriya Sule said, “We humbly accept the verdict of the people. We will surely introspect and rebuild our base.”
The critical factors which appear to have worked against the NCP, which is grappling with its image makeover since the 2014 assembly elections, include the party’s failure to tackle the in-house unrest and political aspirations of the sugar barons, who are ready to switch sides for assured political future. In the recent elections, powerful local NCP leaders in several districts in western Maharashtra switched from the parent party and formed independent outfits under the banner of Vikas Aghadi (Development Alliance), uniting local groups including the BJP to challenge the Pawars.
In Pandharpur, former NCP leader Prashant Paricharak formed the Pandharpur-Mangalvedha Vikas Aghadi, giving the BJP an edge. In Barsi taluka, former NCP (MLA) Rajendra Raut along with the party’s district general secretary Arun Kapase crossed over to the BJP to make a dent in the NCP’s power. At Madha, former NCP leader Sanjay (Mama) Shinde joined hands with the BJP to forge an alliance — Vikas Aghadi — to fight the NCP. His brother Baban Shinde is the sitting NCP (MLA).
At Satara, NCP (MP) Udayan Raje Bhosale had challenged parent party through Satara Vikas Aghadi. Although the dissidents worked in varying measures, it did dent the NCP. In the 2012 elections, the BJP tally across Pune, Ahmednagar, Solapur, Sangli, Satara, Kolhapur was as low as 10 seats out of 416 in western Maharashtra. The NCP with 195 seats took the lead followed by Congress with 132 seats, Shiv Sena with 24 seats, MNS with nine seats and others at 41 seats.
The BJP’s hold had always remained weak in western Maharashtra compared to Vidarbha, North Maharashtra and parts of Marathwada. According to Sudhir Gadgil (MLA) from Sangli, “We made a breakthrough because of the development plank of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.”