In the eight districts that comprise Marathwada, where agrarian distress has peaked over the last few years, the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party were unable to improve their 2014 tally of Assembly seats. Apparently finding resonance in the BJP-Sena’s twin campaign agenda in this region, of the change in the status of Kashmir on the one hand and the promise of a drought-free Marathwada in the coming five years, voters elected 16 BJP legislators in comparison to 15 in 2014; and 12 Shiv Sena legislators compared to 11 in 2014.
Of the region’s 46 MLAs, the Sena-BJP now have 28, up from 26. In addition, one independent legislator, Ratnakar Gutte, belongs to BJP ally Rashtriya Samaj Paksha while one Peasants and Workers Party legislator, Shyam Sunder Shinde, is expected to ally with the BJP-Sena alliance on account of being Nanded BJP MP Pratap Chikhalikar’s brother-in-law.
“In Nanded, the BJP had one MLA, and we now have three MLAs and one PWP MLA who will support the BJP,” said Pratap Patil Chikhalikar, who was leading the campaign management in the district.
“The Sena, on the other hand, could have done better in Nanded, but lost out a few seats due to internal issues, including a rebel supported by a Sena leader in Hadgaon.”
The Bhokar seat was lost on account of “money power”, Chikhalikar said, adding that the overall thrust of the BJP’s campaign on a drought-free region, on ensuring irrigation and water supply worked as effectively as the emotive appeal of Article 370.
Across the region, the Congress did successfully wrest a few seats from the Sena-BJP including Hadgaon, Nanded South, Deglur, Pathri and Jalna. But it was unable to retain Nanded North, Naigaon, Kalamnuri, Sillod, Ausa and Tuljapur.
The NCP, meanwhile, lost Kinwat, Jintur, Gangakhed, Vaijapur, Osmanabad and Paranda, but seized Basmath, Majalgaon, Ashti, Parli and Ahmadpur.
In parched Latur, it was infighting in the BJP that helped the Congress and NCP. While Amit and Dhiraj Deshmukh, sons of former Congress chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, won in Latur City and Latur Rural respectively, the NCP won Ahmadpur and Udgir. State minister Sambhaji Patil Nilangekar and chief minister Devendra Fadnavis’s personal assistant Abhimanyu Pawar won from Nilanga and Ausa respectively.
Dhiraj told The Indian Express that the results are a reflection of people’s anger.
“The party had seen desertions by senior leaders, we were not given media space, but our work on the ground worked,” he said. Dhiraj claimed the slow pace of the loan waiver, delays in crop insurance payments and agrarian distress worked against the government.
In neighbouring Osmanabad, Ranajagjitsinh Patil, the former NCP leader who joined the BJP, defeated veteran Congressman Madhukar Chavan from the Tuljapur seat.
The Shiv Sena which had fought in the other three seats managed to win them all. Patil, is the son of Dr Padmasinh Patil whose sister is married to Ajit Pawar.