While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swept the first two phases of polls to municipal councils governing small cities across Maharashtra, the third phase was not as much of a cakewalk for the saffron party with the Congress and BJP ending up neck-to-neck in the battle.
Nineteen municipal councils and two nagar panchayats went to polls with a total of 409 seats across four districts of Aurangabad, Nanded, Bhandara and Gadchiroli in the third phase of the four-phase polls to 212 local bodies across Maharashtra.
The BJP expanded its presence to end up with 116 seats of the 409 seats, up from the 25 of the 381 member seats that went to polls in 2011, as per data from the State Election Commission (SEC).
While the Congress’ actual number of seats dipped, it raced ahead of the BJP with a tally of 122 seats out of the total 409, as against 140 of the existing 381 that went to polls in 2011.
The Congress and BJP each got eight council presidents elected. The Congress was successful in propping up its candidates to the council presidents’ posts in Kannad and Khultabad in the Aurangabad district, and Biloli, Deglur, Dharmabad, Hadgaon, Kandhar and Mukhed in the Nanded district.
Meanwhile, the BJP got its presidents elected to the councils of Paithan and Gangapur in the Aurangabad, Bhandara, Sakoli and Tumsar in the Bhandara district, Desaiganj and Gadchiroli in the Gadchiroli district, and Kundalwadi in Nanded.
Aurangabad and Nanded districts have been strongholds of the Congress with the party currently holding 35 of the 74 existing seats in the councils that went to polls in the Aurangabad district, and 88 of the 195 in the Nanded district.
For Congress, the victory is being seen as a face-saver with the Nanded district being the home turf of former chief minister and state Congress Chief Ashok Chavan, and with the party having already conceded a significant space to the BJP elsewhere until now, especially in the second phase.
Chavan said, “The BJP resorted to ample misuse of the government machinery and money during elections. In this particular phase, in the Nanded district the chief minister addressed five public gatherings in a single day, resorting to large-scale campaigning, but the Congress workers worked hard on the ground and emerged successful.”
He added, Congress’ sweeping success in the Marathwada region is significant of how the upcoming elections to Zilla Parishads and municipal corporations across the state might turn out to be like.
Besides the BJP’s rising influence, the growing presence of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) in the Marathwada region was being seen as another reason that could have made it difficult for the Congress to guard its bastions. The AIMIM was responsible for shaving off the Congress’ numbers to a certain extent in the first two phases of the four-phase election.
The Hyderabad-based party’s impact was, however, limited in the third phase as it managed to clinch just five member seats, two in the Kannad municipal council in Aurangabad, two in the Ardhapur nagar panchayat in the Nanded district, and one seat the Mahur nagar panchayat, also in Nanded.
Having emerged with a majority in council member seats and council presidents in the first phase, and made deep inroads into Congress and NCP strongholds in the second round, the BJP patted itself on its back after the third phase too. BJP leaders attributed the party’s success to a thumps up to the prime minister’s decision to demonetize in the government’s war on black money, and active work by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.