FINISHING WITH an overall vote share of about 14 per cent in Maharashtra, the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA), an alliance of AIMIM led by Asaduddin Owasi and Prakash Ambedkar’s Bharatiya Republican Party Bahujan Mahasangh, played a decisive role in the victories of Shiv Sena-NJP candidates in seven seats.
In these seats — Buldhana, Gadchiroli-Chimur, Nanded, Hatkanangale, Parbhani, Sangli and Solapur — its candidates polled more votes than the margin of victory.
Also, the votes polled by the VBA candidate were in excess of the margin in two more seats — Chandrapur where the Congress candidate won and Amravati where an NCP-supported Independent won.
In all, VBA candidates polled over 41.30 lakh votes across 48 seats. In at least eight seats, the VBA’s vote share exceeded 10 per cent, and in 13 seats, its candidates polled over 1 lakh votes. It won one seat, Aurangabad, where journalist-turned-politician Imtiyaz Jaleel polled 3,89,042 votes.
While VBA leaders said their strategy was to oppose BJP-Shiv Sena and Congress-NCP, leaders of the latter, including state Congress president Ashok Chava, who lost in Nanded, said the alliance had effectively sliced into the secular vote. Chavan lost by 42,010 votes, with the VBA’s Yashpal Bhinge polling 1,66,196 votes.
“It is wrong to blame us for the defeat of the Congress. It was their overconfidence and lack of maturity that led to their downfall. We were asking for 12 seats that the Congress alliance was consistently losing. They did not give them to us. Now, they have lost 12 seats that they would have easily won had they aligned with us,” said VBA convener Navnath Padalkar, also the alliance’s candidate from Baramati.
“After the election results, leaders from several parties have contacted us. We offered an alternative that the voters found attractive. We equalled the Congress’ seat tally this time. We are confident of bettering this in the state polls,” he added.
In Parbhani, Hyderabad-based entrepreneur Alamgir Mohammed Khan polled 1,49,946 votes. Sitting Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Jadhav retained his seat here by a margin of 42,199 over NCP’s Rajesh Vitekar. The 38-year-old Khan runs a software company in Hyderabad, but was born in Jalna and said has a deep connect with the state.
“We explained to the Muslim voters that they had been going through two options for decades — the Sena or the NCP. For nearly 30 years, this has been a Sena seat, and nothing has changed for the people. We were offering an educated and capable candidate for better representation,” Khan added.
Having been associated with the AIMIM for a few years, Khan has been active in running campaigns for the party but this was his first electoral outing. He said the VBA would contest all 288 seats in the Vidhan Sabha elections. “It is up to the party president to decide whether we will get candidature.”
In Vidarbha’s Gadchiroli-Chimur seat, the VBA candidate was Dr Rameshkumar Gajbe, who holds an MD in gynaecology and obstetrics and has been working actively for a separate Vidarbha for several years. He briefly also worked with the BJP in 2005-06. “This is a tribal district and illiteracy and poverty are high. And unfortunately, elections are won on money power,” Dr Gajbe said. A resident of Chimur taluka, he was elected to the legislative Assembly in 1994 as an Independent. “Later, I was never given an opportunity, but I am actively involved with the people of the district. As a medical professional, I know the poeple’s needs. The government’s policy is oriented towards urban development, districts like ours are neglected. That is what we campaigned on,” he added. Gajbe polled 1,11,468 votes, with Congress candidate Namdeo Usendi losing by 77,526 votes.
Other Congress candidates whose losing margins were smaller than the VBA’s votes included former chief minister Sushil Kumar Shinde in Solapur, where Ambedkar was in the fray and polled 1,70,007 votes (15.68 per cent of the vote share).
Farmer leader and sitting MP Raju Shetti of the Swabhimani Paksha lost in Kolhapur’s Hatkanangale by 96,039 votes while VBA candidate Aslam Sayyed polled 1,23,419 votes.
Paksha’s Vishal Patil, had a similar experience, losing in Sangli by 1,64,352 votes with the VBA’s Gopinath Padalkar polling 3,00,234 votes (25.23 per cent).
(with inputs from Sandeep Ashar)