The results of the legislative council elections from local self bodies in Amravati and Chandrapur-Gachiroli-Wardha constituencies came as a big blow to the Congress-NCP alliance.
BJP retained the Amravati seat when its nominee Praveen Pote defeated Aniruddha Deshmukh, a protégé of Raosaheb Shekhawat, son of President Pratibha Patil and the party wrested the Chandrapur-Gachiroli-Wardha seat from Congress. State youth Congress general secretary Rahul Pugalia lost to BJP’s Mitesh Bhangadiya from Chandrapur. The seat was held by Jainuddin Jhaveri, who contested as an independent and was supported by Congress.
In Amravati, the Congress fielded Deshmukh, the district party chief and a loyalist of Shekhawat. However, a sizeable number of Congressmen opposed him, besides the NCP, its principal ally. The seat was held by BJP’s Jagdish Gupta. Gupta, a two-term MLC and a former minister of state in Shiv Sena-BJP rule in Maharashtra in 1995. Pote got 194 votes and Deshmukh got 156 votes to finish second. A total of 393 votes were polled and 382 of them valid.
Bhangadiya claimed the Chandrapur-Gadchiroli-Wardha seat defeating Rahul Pugalia by a margin of 203 votes. Pugalia is the son of Congress heavyweight from the region and former MP, Naresh Pugalia. He had earlier unsuccessfully contested the 2009 Assembly election from Ballarpur against the state BJP chief Sudhir Mungantiwar.
The Chandrapur district collector and election officer, Vijay Waghmare, informed that of the 619 votes cast, Bhangadiya polled 403 and Pugalia 200 while 16 votes were declared invalid. The seat fell vacant following Jhaveri’s retirement.
Bhangadiya’s victory surprised many because the Congress has maximum seats in those areas. Bhangadia, an irrigation contractor, is learnt to have had a tacit understanding with the NCP, a principal ally of the ruling Congress, in the council elections. Interestingly, Bhangadiya was given an official nomination by the BJP that once lodged a complaint against him
Bhangadiya was in the news in last winter session of the state legislature when the leader of the Opposition, Eknath Khadse, raised the issue of corruption in irrigation department and exposed the government-contractor nexus. Khadse even lodged a written complaint against Bhangadia with the state governor K Sankaranarayanan and demanded a probe into the matter.