Marathwada, home turf of former Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, saw the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party completely wiped out from the region, with the Bharatiya Janata Party – Shiv Sena combine winning seven of the eight seats here.
In Nanded, Chavan was handed a shock defeat by BJP’s Prataprao Patil Chikhalikar, the Shiv Sena MLA from the Loha Assembly segment, by a margin of 42,299 votes. The Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi candidate in Nanded, Yashpal Bhinge, polled over 1,61,000 votes.
“The BJP has been strategising for long on how to defeat Ashok Chavan in Nanded,” said Dr Bhaskarrao Khatgaonkar, a former Congress MP and also Ashok Chavan’s brother-in-law. Now state vice-president of the BJP, he told The Indian Express: “We actually still have a Modi wave here, and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has been working on defeating Chavan for two years.”
While Chavan led the Congress to a massive win in the Nanded-Waghala Municipal Corporation election in October 2017, the Sena and the BJP had fought that election separately. The alliance between the two, anti-incumbency and the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi candidate’s performance were all factors in Chavan’s defeat, Khatgaonkar said.
The Congress also lost in Hingoli, where sitting MP Rajeev Satav had preferred not to contest. Congress candidate Subhash Wankhede, an import from the Sena, lost to the Sena’s Hemant Patil by over 2,37,000 votes.
The Sena also suffered a major upset in the region, with veteran Chandrakant Khaire finishing second in Aurangabad. He was seeking a fifth term. He was defeated by Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi candidate Imtiyaz Jaleel by a slim margin of about 6,000 votes. Independent candidate and Sena rebel Harshvardhan Jadhav, whose main plank was non-implementation of reservations for the Maratha community, polled over 2,81,000 votes here.
Aurangabad was the cradle of the Maratha Morcha movement and witnessed the worst rioting when a bandh called by protesting Marathas turned violent in August 2018.
“We knew the fracture of Maratha votes in Aurangabad was unlikely to be an en bloc support for the Congress-NCP, and Jadhav had tactically declared his support for Modi even while campaigning against Khaire,” Ganesh Raut, a Maratha activist and Sena member in Aurangabad, said. An uneasy relationship between Khaire and state BJP president Raosaheb Danve was also to be blamed, he said.
While Prakash Ambedkar’s VBA played a significant role in the Nanded and Aurangabad upsets, it also polled a sizeable number of votes in other Marathwada constituencies, indicating considerable support from Dalit and Muslim voters of the region.
In Hingoli, the VBA polled 15 per cent of votes, while the party’s Hyderabad-based Muslim candidate polled 12 per cent of votes in sharply polarised Parbhani. The party polled almost 10 per cent of votes in Latur and 8.2 per cent in Osmanabad.
Osmanabad and Parbhani, the two seats from which the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) had been very hopeful of victories, remained loyal to the Sena, with Omraje Nimbalkar and sitting MP Sanjay Jadhav emerging victorious.
Beed and Jalna offered no surprises, with BJP MPs Dr Pritam Munde and state BJP president Raosaheb Danve retaining their seats. Munde won by a much smaller margin, of about 1,75,000 votes, compared to the record margin of 6,96,321 votes she posted in her October 2014 bypoll.