In Maharashtra, upstart party helps Congress surge ahead | india | Hindustan Times
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In Maharashtra, upstart party helps Congress surge ahead

The Congress won several seats where it didn’t expect to do as well. Its partner, the Nationalist Congress Party, suffered big losses especially in its stronghold of western Maharashtra. Still, they won 17 and eight seats respectively, reports Dharmendra Jore.

india Updated: May 17, 2009 03:28 IST
Dharmendra Jore

From the opulent neighbourhoods of Mumbai to the faraway rural backyards, Maharashtra voters sprung surprises.

The Congress won several seats where it didn’t expect to do as well. Its partner, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), suffered big losses especially in its stronghold of western Maharashtra. Still, they won 17 and eight seats respectively.

The Congress party’s 17 seats were its best performance in two decades.

They could thank one man: Raj Thackeray, head of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), a party that opposes non-Maharashtrians in the state and split the pro-Maratha kitty of the opposition Shiv Sena.

Thackeray is a nephew of Shiv Sena patriarch Bal Thackeray, from whose party he quit in 2005. On Saturday, the Shiv Sena won 11 seats, and its partner Bharatiya Janata Party won nine.

In comparison, the Congress party’s United Progressive Alliance won 23 seats in the last elections in 2004, and the BJP-Shiv Sena won 25. Two seats went to Independents.

Among the major winners are NCP chief Sharad Pawar (Madha) and Praful Patel (Gondia), also from NCP; Congress party’s Sushilkumar Shinde (Solapur) and Suresh Kalmadi (Pune), and Gopinath Munde of the BJP.

Despite the outrage against the government over the November 26 terrorist attacks in Mumbai last year, the ruling coalition swept Mumbai.

Congress candidates who won in Mumbai included Milind Deora (South), Sanjay Nirupam (North), Priya Dutt (North Central), Gurudas Kamat (North-West) and Eknath Gaikwad (South-Central). BJP's Kirit Somaiya was defeated by NCP's Sanjay Patil in Mumbai North East.

“If MNS wasn’t there, the Congress would have lost many seats in Mumbai,” said political analyst Pravin Tokekar.

Chief Minister Ashok Chavan said it was a vote for stability. “The people know that a stable government can take proper decisions and serve the country better,” he said.