The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) continued its winning streak even in the second phase of polls to municipal councils in Maharashtra, getting the maximum number of council presidents elected, and coming second in terms of total seats, making inroads in the areas, traditionally seen as Congress-NCP bastions. The BJP’s win came largely at the cost of Congress.
In terms of the number of council member seats, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) emerged as the party with the highest number, managing to not just hold on to its bastions, but also improve its strength. Across the 14 municipal councils in the Pune and Latur districts that went to polls on Wednesday, the NCP won 93 seats of the total 324, up from the 86 that it currently holds. The party won the highest number of seats in the councils of Baramati, Junnar, Daund, Indapur in Pune district and Ausa and Ahmedpur in Latur district.
The party, however, managed to get just two council presidents elected, one in Ausa and the other in NCP Chief Sharad Pawar’s home turf of Baramati. Like in the first phase, this is the first municipal council election where the president was elected directly by voters. And, the BJP’s startegic decision to amend the law to amke way for direct elections paid dividends this time too.
The BJP managed to get five council presidents elected to the municipal councils of Talegaon-Dabhade, Alandi, Lonavala (from Pune) and Ugdir, Nilanga (from Latur).
In terms of the total number of seats too, the party improved its numbers by more than five times to 81 seats across the 14 municipal councils from the 17 it currently holds. The party especially posted a strong performance in Talegaon-Dabhade, Lonavala, Alandi, Udgir, and Nilanga, where it clutched a majority of the seats.
BJP’s Keshav Upadhyay said, “This is a validation that people believe in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s work and his move to demonetise and target black money, as well as chief minister Devendra Fadnavis’ clean image and work in Maharashtra for the past two years. The victory is especially resounding as it is directly in the bastions of the Congress and NCP. Even winning four seats in Baramati, the NCP’s stronghold, means a lot.”
The BJP’s strong performance, however, cost the Congress, as it snatched the latter’s majority in the councils of Nilanga, Udgir and Lonavala. The Congress saw its member count in the 14 municipal councils dropping by more than a third to 45 from its existing count of 72. The party, however, managed to get two council presidents elected in the Indapur and Jejuri municipal councils. Congress leaders, however, maintained, the actual strength of the party is higher than the official number put out by the State Election Commission as there are a number of local candidates and alliances backed by the Congress, who have won.
Maharashtra Congress President Ashok Chavan said, “The BJP has made tremendous use of money power during this whole election, and has also misused official machinery in pulling votes. There are two more phases of local body polls and we hope to do better there. Meanwhile, we will inspect what went wrong with our local leadership in these districts.”
NCP’s Nawab Malik attributed the BJP’s victory to the presence of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM). “The AIMIM is the main factor responsible for the BJP’s victory. It has split votes of other parties by drawing a substantial portion of the Muslim vote share to itself.”
The BJP’s ally Shiv Sena won 23 seats across the 14 councils, and got one council president elected in Junnar. The party currency has 19 members in the 14 councils.
A total of 1,326 candidates are in the fray for 324 council seats across 14 municipal councils, while 106 candidates were vying for the 14 council president posts.
Overall, 212 municipal councils,nagar panchayats besides 10 big civic corporations and 26 district councils across the state are to go to polls from October this year to March next year, in what is being seen as a mini-assembly election.