Taking moral responsibility for the near-total rout of the Congress in Maharashtra, state Congress president Ashok Chavan on Thursday offered to resign from the post soon after he was handed a shock defeat in Nanded. Another Congress heavyweight and former chief minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde, also had to bite the dust.
Chavan, a sitting MP, lost by 42,299 votes to BJP’s Pratap Patil Chikhalikar. Yashpal Bhinge of the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi polled 1,61,910 votes in Nanded.
The Congress in Maharashtra will send a single MP to the Lok Sabha, Suresh Dhanorkar from Chandrapur in the Vidarbha region.
“We accept the verdict of the people. We have for the last five years relentlessly raised the issues of the people. We have hit the streets to raise these issues. It was against that background that we entered this election. It is a matter of deep sorrow that we could not succeed,” Chavan said in a statement.
He added that the people of Nanded have always showered their love on his family. “Perhaps they wanted a change this time. Therefore, I respect their decision,” he said.
The former Maharashtra chief minister also said the Vanchit Bahujan Aaghadi led by Prakash Ambedkar must share the blame for the defeat of the UPA. “In an election that was critical for democracy and the Constitution, the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi has damaged secular forces and supported casteist parties. That is a cause for the defeat of Congress-NCP candidates in several seats,” he claimed.
Nanded was one of only two Lok Sabha constituencies in Maharashtra that the Congress managed to hold steady amid the Modi wave in 2014.
At 77, former Union minister Sushilkumar Shinde had made an emotive ardent appeal to the voters to consider his candidature promising to bow out of the electoral politics after this last time. That pitch failed. He was defeated in his home turf of Solapur.
Shinde was pitted against the BJP’s Swami Siddheshwar, who won by a comfortable margin of more than 1.5 lakh. The triangular polls in Solapur saw the presence of a third candidate, Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi’s Prakash Ambedkar, who played spoiler for the veteran Congressman.
In Chandrapur, Union Minister of State for Home Hansraj Ahir was in a rude shock when he lost to Suresh Dhanorkar of the Congress. The local unit of the BJP had wanted to replace Ahir because of the anti-incumbency against him. The minister had represented the constituency as a BJP MP in 11th, 14th, 15th and 16th Lok Sabhas.
Shiv Sena, meanwhile, lost Raigad — contested by the party’s only minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Cabinet and six-time MP Anant Geete. He was unseated by NCP national general secretary and former state minister Sunil Tatkare, who had lost the 2014 Lok Sabha polls to Geete by only 2,100 votes.