Drawing a blank once again, the Prakash Ambedkar-led Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) could have wrecked the prospects of the Congress-NCP alliance in at least 22 seats in the Assembly elections, just as it had spoiled the alliance’s chances in several seats in the Lok Sabha polls this year.
Of these 22, Congress was contesting on 12 and the NCP on 10. The VBA itself contested 280 seats across the state, but failed to win any of them. It did put up a good show in a few of them, such as Murtizpur constituency of Akola district, where VBA candidate Pratibha Awachar lost by just 152 votes to her BJP rival.
“Our bad luck, what else,” is how Prakash Ambedkar described some of the narrow losses his party suffered.
However, in the 22 seats where it seemed to have ruined the chances of Congress and NCP candidates, the VBA was nowhere in the race. But the votes it secured were more than the margin of victory of the winning candidates. The VBA is supposed to attract mainly non-BJP-Shiv Sena votes.
The seats which the Congress could have lost due to the presence of VBA candidates are Khamgaon, Damangaon, Chimur, Chikhli, Akola West, Phulambari, Tuljapur, Chandivli, Shivajinagar, Ralegaon, Arni, and Pune Cantonment. Similarly, NCP could have suffered in Ulhasnagar, Paithan, Nandgaon, Daund, Jintur, Chalisgoan, Ghansawangi, Khadakwala, Malshiras, Osmanabad and Georai.
Congress-NCP leaders said that if VBA had joined hands with them, not only could it have pushed up their tally, but an overall positive atmosphere could have spelled doom for BJP-Sena government. “If Prakash Ambedkar had shared the stage with Congress-NCP alliance leaders, it could have sealed the fate of the existing government,” said Raju Shetti, chief of the Swabhimani Paksha, which is part of the opposition alliance.
Senior Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan said the Congress-Sena combine had tried for an alliance to avoid division of secular votes, but Ambedkar kept changing his demands. NCP leader Ajit Pawar said both Congress and NCP leaders tried for an alliance with the VBA but it did not work out. VBA chief Prakash Ambedkar said he would hold discussions only with central leaders of the Congress, but those leaders refused to meet.
Rekha Thakur, who heads the state wing of VBA, said, “In 50 to 60 Seats, VBA candidates put up a strong fight. In 10 to 12 seats, VBA candidates were leading till the 15th round”.
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