Updated: January 19, 2021 8:58:50 am
As the counting of votes polled in Maharashtra gram panchayat elections continues, the BJP is slightly ahead of the Shiv Sena in a tight race for the single largest party, with the NCP following close behind.
The elections were not fought on party symbols, but going by the backing that the panels of candidates received in every panchayat, those backed by Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) constituents —Sena, NCP and Congress — appear to have won most of the panchayats. This will give MVA a clear edge in the sarpanch elections, which are to be held in a few days’ time.
The state has a total of 27,920 gram panchayats, of which 14,234 went to the polls on January 15. The tenure of the rest is not yet complete. Voting took place for 12,711 gram panchayats, as in the remaining 1,523, only single candidates were in the fray, who are likely to be declared unopposed.
Full results will be available on Tuesday, but trends indicate that collectively, MVA will dominate the gram panchayats for the next five years. The last gram panchayat polls were held in 2015-2016.
The main takeaway is that the Sena, which had the image of a largely urban party, has enlarged its footprint in rural Maharashtra at the cost of BJP, helped no doubt by the fact that the MVA, headed by a Sena chief minister, is in power in the state. But it lost ground in its traditional turf Konkan to sworn opponent Narayan Rane,who delivered in the region for the BJP.
The BJP may yet emerge with the single largest tally, but with MVA holding strong, that will be cold consolation.
The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena also registered its presence, bagging 36 gram panchayats.
Displaying their united front, leaders from Sena, Congress and NCP declared it was the victory of the MVA. The BJP asserted it would emerge as the No. 1 party.
“The BJP was contesting against three parties. The BJP’s success can be attributed to the pro-people policies of the Narendra Modi government during Covid-19. In comparison, the MVA government was unable to address the unrest at home,” former CM Devendra Fadnavis said.
On the other hand, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar described the outcome as a verdict on the good governance by the MVA. He appealed to grassroot workers to set aside politics and work for development of villages.
State NCP chief Jayant Patil said all three constituents of MVA have done well in the gram panchayat elections. “Though these elections are not fought on party symbols, the candidates owing allegiance to a particular parties are fielded. When the final results are out, it will be clear that the Maha Vikas Aghadi had won maximum gram panchayats,” he said.
State minister Uday Samant, a Sena leader, said, “The Shiv Sena will finally emerge as the number one party… and together with the MVA constituents, will have the maximum number of gram panchayats under its belt.”
From the trends, the BJP appeared to be losing considerable ground in its home turf Vidarbha, where the Congress has fared well. In Marathwada, Western Maharashtra, it was challenged by Congress, NCP and Shiv Sena.
State BJP president Chandrakant Patil was stumped in his native village Khanapur by a panel backed by Shiv Sena MLA Prakash Ambitkar. However, Patil argued, “ A defeat in one gram panchayat does not undermine our success. We are confident of winning 6,000 gram panchayats.”
Congress state president and revenue minister Balasaheb Thorat claimed his party would win 4,000 gram panchayats.
In Sena’s home turf Konkan, the BJP benefited from Rane’s clout, wresting 55 out of 80 gram panchayats in the region. Nitish Rane said, “In spite of having Shiv Sena CM Uddhav Thackeray, they failed to dislodge us because we work at the grassroots.”
Other bigwigs such as BJP leaders Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil in Ahmednagar, Udayanraje Bhosale in Satara, senior Congress leaders Prithviraj Chavan in Karad and Ashok Chavan in Nanded, NCP state chief Jayant Patil in Sangli faced embarrassment as gram panchayats backed by them lost. In Beed, panels backed by the NCP leader and minister Dhananjay Munde emerged successful.
The Shiv Sena also did well in Beed for the first time. In Ralegan Siddhi, the gram vikas panel supported by crusader Anna Hazare emerged victorious.
The Aam Aadmi Party also made a successful electoral foray, with a panel of its supporters winning five seats in the Dapkyal Gram Panchayat in Latur district.
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