The BJP received a jolt in the Maharashtra Legislative Council elections on Friday, winning just one of the six seats that went to polls, and losing in its strongholds of Nagpur and Pune.
The ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi, comprising Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress, won four seats. While NCP and Congress each won two seats, one seat went to an Independent candidate.
The BJP will have to evolve better strategy factoring the combined strength of Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress to effectively counter it in the next elections, Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly, Devendra Fadnavis, said after the results were declared. Speaking to mediapersons, he admitted that the BJP has fared badly and much below expectations. “It’s evident we didn’t correctly ascertain their combined strength,” he said.
“The defeat of BJP in its traditional seat Nagpur and the Pune graduates’ constituency shows that people are drifting away from the right-wing party. They have preferred Maha Vikas Aghadi,” said NCP president Sharad Pawar.
The polls for six seats – three graduates’ constituencies (Nagpur, Pune and Aurangabad), two teachers’ constituencies (Pune and Amravati) and one local body (Dhule-Nandurbar) had taken place on December 1. Votes were counted on December 3.
The electoral outcome in Nagpur, where BJP’s former mayor Sandip Joshi was defeated by Congress’ Abhijit Wanjari, came as a shock to the party. The Congress wrested the seat from the BJP after 55 years. Wanjari polled 61,701 votes while Joshi got 42,791 votes.
The seat was represented in the past by late Gangadhar Fadnavis, father of former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis. Union Minister Nitin Gadkari has also been a Council member from this constituency.
Another prestigious seat was the Pune graduates’ constituency, which went to the NCP. The BJP candidate, Sangram Deshmukh, got 73,321 votes against NCP’s Arun Lad, who bagged 12,2145 votes. The seat had been vacated by BJP state unit president Chandrakant Patil.
The third graduates’ constituency, Aurangabad, saw NCP’s sitting member Satish Chavan trouncing BJP’s Shirish Boralkar.
While NCP won from two graduates’ constituencies, Congress won from one.
In Amravati teachers’ constituency, BJP’s Dr Nitin Dhande lost to Independent candidate Kiran Sarnaik. The Sena, which contested this lone seat, failed to get its candidate Shrikant Deshpande elected.
The Pune teachers’ constituency was bagged by Congress’ Jayant Asgaonkar. Here, the BJP had supported Independent candidate Jitendra Pawar, who had to bite the dust.
The BJP sought solace in the lone local body constituency of Dhule-Nandurbar. Former Congress leader Amarish Patel, who had joined BJP last year ahead of the 2019 Assembly polls, won from his home turf.
The election underlined to the BJP that the Maha Vikas Aghadi remained strong. Chandrakant Patil said, “We will convene a core committee meeting to analyse and introspect what went wrong.”
Fadnavis admitted, “There seems to have been some miscalculation about Congress, NCP and Shiv Sena’s combined strength.”
Meanwhile, Congress and NCP leaders said that the results were a verdict against BJP’s politics. “The results show that the political situation in Maharashtra has changed,” Sharad Pawar said.
The Sena, whose candidate was defeated in Amravati division’s teachers’ constituency, said that it would evaluate the loss and take corrective measures. “We will get information as to what happened in Amravati. We will introspect,” said Dr Neelam Gorhe, Sena legislator and party spokesperson.
On Sena’s failure to open an account, Transport Minister Anil Parab said, “Amravati teachers’ constituency was never our base. It has always favored Independent candidates.”
Asked about BJP’s loss in Pune and Nagpur division’s graduates’ constituency, Gorhe said, “The results show that the urban voter, which traditionally votes for BJP, has moved to MVA.”
The elections assumed significance, as it was first test post formation of the Maha Vikas Aghadi. It almost marked the completion of one year of the Uddhav Thackeray government.
BJP insiders conceded that upcoming elections – from BMC to gram panchayat and zilla parishads over the next two to three years – are going to be a major challenge if Congress, NCP and Sena contest together. However, if they contest separately, the BJP believes it will still be the frontrunner.
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