A DAY after it was bundled out of its bastion of Pimpri-Chinchwad after a 10-year-long reign, a rattled NCP said it had been undone by the BJP’s “misuse of power and money”. “We ruled Pimpri-Chinchwad for 10 years. And now it seems people have asked us to wait by handing over charge to the BJP, which captured PCMC by misusing the money and power at its disposal,” said Sanjog Waghere, president of the NCP’s Pimpri-Chinchwad unit.
Most NCP leaders in Pimpri-Chinchwad have been unable to fathom what went wrong. They argued that despite all the development that has taken place over the years under NCP rule, it was difficult to believe that the party could lose, and by such a margin. “No other city in Maharashtra has seen the kind of development that Pimpri-Chinchwad has witnessed during NCP rule. And yet we lost by such a large margin,” said a senior NCP leader.
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While the BJP raced to glory with a landslide victory, securing 77 seats in the PCMC, the NCP had to remain content with 36 seats in the 128-member House.
However, the NCP had proved to be no match for the BJP in the run-up to the civic elections, during campaigning, or even on election day. NCP leaders and analysts believe that the party faltered right from the very beginning. While the BJP was attacking the NCP over alleged corruption at every fora, Ajit Pawar’s party did little to counter the attack. It looked jaded and clueless, and failed to come up with a concrete strategy to take on the BJP, said analysts. The BJP had started its preparations months before, by luring sitting and former corporators, and leaders from NCP and other political parties.
Except for former Congress leader Bhausaheb Bhoir, or former corporator and Sena leader Shyam Lande, the NCP did not look for popular faces or focus on the winning capability of leaders. It relied on its own tried-and-tested senior leaders, several of whom, such as six-time corporator R S Kumar, bit the dust this time. NCP leader Yogesh Behl claimed he had opposed the nomination of Kumar but the party had shot down his objections.
All across Pimpri-Chinchwad, banners and flex boards of BJP leaders had ensured that the party’s presence was noticeable by the public. Every other day, the BJP found a place in newspaper columns, on TV channels or on social media for reasons as varied as a senior NCP leader joining the party or a decision taken by the state government on issues such as illegal constructions or the penalty tax, or by raking up alleged corruption in the PCMC under NCP rule. In fact, BJP leaders kept on raking up the corruption issue at almost every other platform. “The BJP ensured that it remained visible all the time,” said analyst Mahadev Sahasrabuddhe.
On the day of voting, candidates and workers, carrying the BJP’s saffron flag, were seen briskly moving around poll booths as well as residential localities, apparently to remain in touch with voters and urge them to vote in their favour. In contrast, NCP candidates and workers, as well as party flags, were hardly visible.
During campaigning, the BJP was led by none other than the Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and other popular leaders such as Raosaheb Danve and Pankaja Munde. Even Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar visited Pune and promised to resolve the raging Red Zone issue. The NCP, on its part, had Ajit Pawar all the way. Most of the time, he addressed rallies where only NCP leaders and workers were present; he was also busy holding press conferences. NCP chief Sharad Pawar addressed only one rally.
“The NCP did a lot of development work in Pimpri-Chinchwad. But it seems the NCP was laidback and it was overconfident about winning the election. This proved to be its undoing,” said Shiv Sena candidate Maruti Bhapkar, who lost in Akurdi.
The BJP, on the other hand, succeeded in creating an atmosphere in its favour, said Bhapkar. “By repeating allegations and promising sops, it gained the public’s confidence, which translated into a massive number of votes,” said Bhapkar, alleging that the BJP “used money and muscle power to telling effect”. BJP leader Sarang Kamtekar revealed that one of the tactics adopted by the party was locking top NCP leaders in their respective panels. “We fielded strong leaders in the panels of top NCP leaders like Yogesh Behl and Mangala Kadam. This ensured that they had little time to help their party colleagues in other panels,” said Kamtekar.
It seemed that the party failed to reach out to voters about development work, said NCP chief Sanjog Waghere. “We did massive development work in Pimpri-Chinchwad but somehow failed to make voters realise the good work done by us,” he said, adding that the party was still trying to analyse its shock defeat.