The Bharatiya Janata Party has emerged undisputed winner in the mini-assembly elections in Maharashtra, shrugging off its tag of being an urban-based party by sweeping the countryside too.
The BJP is now set to rule eight of the 10 cities and nearly half the 25 district councils that went to the polls. The party is ahead in 12 of the district councils that run the rural areas; it won just one last time. The BJP has more than doubled its tally of district council seats -- 397 as against 187 the last time when it was placed fourth.
The comparison is telling: in the 25 outgoing district councils, the NCP held 518 seats, followed by the Congress with 438, and the Shiv Sena with 241. In the results announced on Thursday (76 results were not in), the NCP got 336 seats and the Congress 293, their tally falling steeply. The Sena gained marginally with 259 seats.
The BJP led by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has clearly consolidated the gains of the 2014 assembly elections in Maharashtra, once seen as a bastion of the Congress, moving from number four to number one. The Congress is now number four.
Barring Mumbai and Thane, the BJP won a clear mandate in seven civic bodies and may need the support of the Shiv Sena in Ulhasnagar, where it is falling just short of the halfway mark. In Nashik, the party wrested power from the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS).
Besides sweeping its citadel Vidarbha, the BJP made inroads in western Maharashtra and Marathwada. In Latur, state labour minister Sambhaji Patil Nilangekar wrested control of the district council, which was ruled by the Congress’ Deshmukh clan – first Vilasrao Deshmukh and then his son Amit Deshmukh.
Though the BJP emerged the largest party in Beed, it lost 8 out of 10 seats in Parali, the constituency of women and child welfare minister Pankaja Munde, to the NCP. An upset Munde announced that she had sent her resignation to CM Fadnavis owning up for the failure.
The NCP with a network of cooperative institutions retained most of the district councils in Western Maharashtra, except Sangli.
Contrary to predictions, the BJP weathered the perceived distress caused by demonetisation to farmers and farm workers. The action taken by the Fadnavis government to rein in district banks and cooperative societies did not go against the BJP.
“Surprisingly, the demonetisation does not seem to have worked against the BJP and this may prove to be a boost to the party,” said Prakash Bal, political analyst.