As in the rest of Maharashtra, the Assembly polls ushered in a major shift of power in the tribal regions of the state. A stronghold of the Congress, these elections saw the BJP decimating the party in tribal regions.
The BJP captured 11 of the 25 reserved seats, while it had won just two such seats in 2009. The Congress could manage to get only five tribal seats as compared to its tally of 10 in 2009.
Tribal MLAs of the Congress from Akkalkuwa, Sakri, Shirpur and Igatpuri were successful in retaining their seats, while the party managed to snatch the Nawapur seat from the Samajwadi Party.
Senior party leader and former minister of sports and youth affairs Padmakar Valvi was defeated from Shahada by the BJP’s Udesing Padvi by a margin of less than 700 votes.
Akkalkuwa, Shahada, Nandurbar, and Nawapur are in the Nandurbar district, which was considered a Congress stronghold. During the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP’s Dr Heena Gavit managed to defeat the nine-time Congress MP Manikrao Gavit by over a lakh votes.
Dr Heena Gavit’s father and former NCP strongman Dr Vijaykumar Gavit had joined the BJP prior to the elections and had successfully contested from the Nandurbar Assembly seat. His brothers Rajendra Gavit and Sharad Gavit had contested from Shahada and Nawapur seats as NCP candidates and lost.
His brother-in-law Jagdish Valvi, who was the sitting MLA from Chopada seat had contested the elections on a BJP ticket but was defeated by Shiv Sena’s Chandrakant Sonawane.
If BJP’s performance in north Maharashtra was moderate it managed to gain ground in the tribal seats of Vidarbha. In 2009, the Congress had won five of the six tribal seats in the area, all of whom were captured by the BJP this time. Also the Melghat seat was won by BJP after a gap of ten years.
Local issues, especially the falling price of onion had played against the BJP in tribal seats in the onion belt of Nashik. The BJP lost the Baglan seat to the NCP while internal rebellion in the CPM helped the BJP to win the Dahanu seat.
Shiv Sena managed to win three tribal seats, bettering its performance in tribal areas by one seat, while the NCP managed to win four seats which was its tally in 2009.
The inclusion of Dr Gavit in the BJP had given hope to the party that it would wrestle all the seven seats in north Maharashtra but rebellion in the local party unit and defection of party leaders from the BJP marred its chances there. Dr Heena Gavit, speaking about the performance, said that the defeat of the BJP candidate in Nawapur was due to revolt in the party. “In Chopada the tribal areas had voted for BJP but the non tribal urban areas did not vote for the party. We will have to analyse the results to see what went wrong,” she said.
The victory of the party in the tribal belt, according to Sanjay Dabhade, a member of the Adivasi Adhikar Manch, is a reflection of the saffronisation of the tribal population being carried out for years.
“Many organisations are working to proselytise the tribal population and the victory of BJP candidates shows that the efforts are successful,” he said.