For the first time in the history of Pune, the Bharatiya Janata Party won an absolute majority, capturing the bastion of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress by bagging 96 seats in the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC). The BJP’s tally is likely to cross 100 seats. It was ahead by five seats at the time of going to press.
This is the first time that Pune will have a mayor from the BJP. The NCP — which controlled the civic body for 10 years — bagged only 29 seats as against its previous strength of 51. The Congress could not reach double digits as it won nine seats. The Shiv Sena won 11 seats as against its previous tally of 15 seats. The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena MNS, which was the main Opposition party in the previous house, with 29 seats, could win only three this time around. The total number of seats in the PMC is 162.
Several prominent Congress and NCP leaders suffered defeat. Pune NCP president Vandana Chavan — also a Rajya Sabha member — resigned from the post citing a moral responsibility in the wake of the defeat. “We will continue to work for Pune,” said Chavan, late on Thursday.
The BJP’s performance assumes significance as Opposition parties had severely criticised the BJP for welcoming party members who have criminal backgrounds. Opposition parties also targeted the BJP over demonetisation during the election.
The BJP was embarrassed after chief minister Devendra Fadnavis left a public rally after seeing vacant seats. Following this, Fadnavis was mocked on social media.
The BJP has made remarkable inroads into NCP strongholds, which are on the periphery of the PMC. It admitted several NCP leaders to the party a few days before the election, which worked in its favour. The election outcome also indicates that party has gained in the traditional strongholds of the Congress. BJP candidates won a majority of the reserved seats, widening the party’s base. The party won seats in unexpected areas, including Muslim-dominated pockets.
The Fadnavis government had taken major decisions concerning the city, such as granting approvals to the development plan (DP), sanctioning Metro lines and the international airport and forming the Pune Metro Regional Development Authority (PMRDA) over the past few months. This pleased voters, said guardian minister Girish Bapat.
BJP workers celebrated their victory by carrying out marches and distributing sweets all over the city.The party also captured power in the neighbouring Pimpri-Chinchwad , which was controlled by former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar. Prominent NCP leaders in this region had defected to the BJP, which benefitted the party, helping it bag 78 seats. The NCP won 29 seats. The Congress failed to make a dent in this industrial township, whereas the Shiv Sena bagged nine seats as against its earlier strength of 14.
During the last elections, the NCP had emerged as the winner in Pimpri-Chinchwad, with 83 seats. It secured power in Pune with the help of the congress. While the BJP and the Shiv Sena contested independently, the Congress and the NCP formed an alliance but failed to win seats.
In another major setback to the Congress, the party lost Solpaur to the BJP.
The BJP is now set to elect its mayor with the help of independents in Solapur, which was the bastion of former Union minister Sushilkumar Shinde.