After an impressive show in the first phase of council elections, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Thursday registered victory in Pune and Latur districts, which were considered to be strongholds of the opposition, the NCP and the Congress.
In the second phase of polls for 14 civic bodies in Pune and Latur districts, BJP won the president’s post in five and bagged 81 seats. Although it lost some ground, the NCP, too, performed well by winning the president’s post in three civic bodies (one of the presidents came from a local front floated by the NCP) and bagged 93 seats. The Congress was pushed to third position, while Shiv Sena came in fourth.
Thursday’s victory was unexpected for the BJP and comes as a boost for chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, who has already earned praise from the party leadership for winning the first phase of polls, which took place within days of the Centre’s demonetisation decision. In the first phase, the BJP won 51 out of 147 municipal councils.
According to party sources, Fadnavis personally paid attention to the election management in the second phase, too, and deputed his ministers to handle the elections where the party had chances to win. The outcome was there to see: The BJP nominees were elected as council presidents in three cities in Pune (Lonavala, Talegaon and Alandi) and two in Latur (Nilanga and Udgir).
In terms of seats, the BJP’s tally went up to 81 from the 17 it had in the 14 councils.
This would encourage the party to contest the remaining phases especially when the party’s state leaders are wary of the effect of the demonetisation.
The results are also satisfactory for the NCP, which has been on the back foot since its defeat in the 2014 elections. Its nominees were elected as council presidents in Baramati (hometown of party chief Sharad Pawar and Ausa in Latur). A local front floated by it also won in Shirur in Pune district. The party won 93 seats – the highest number of civic council member seats among the four prominent parties.
The results of the second phase were disappointing for the Congress, which was hoping to put up a better show. Its nominees won as presidents of civic bodies in Indapur and Jejuri in Pune district, but it lost three civic bodies to the BJP. Its number of elected members also dropped to 45 from 72. A front floated by its local unit won the civic body of Saswad in Pune.
The worst loser was the Shiv Sena. It could win the president’s post in only one city, Junnar in Pune. It stood fourth in terms of total seats won – 23. The Sena’s poor performance and the NCP’s success in some areas could lead to the ruling combine to decide whether they want to come together for the remaining phases of civic polls.
For Fadnavis, putting up a better show in elections to major civic bodies such as Mumbai, Pune and Nashik as well as zilla parishads (district councils), which play significant role in rural politics, will be important. The party or alliance that wins maximum number of major civic bodies and zilla parishads could get the momentum for the 2019 Assembly polls.
For the Congress and NCP, a worrying factor is the Owaisi brothers’ All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), which has again bagged seats. The party has shown its presence in Marathwada region, where it bagged six seats in Udgir (Latur) where minority votes are in sizeable numbers. Significantly, Congress lost Udgir to BJP as AIMIM got response among the minorities.