Continuing with its losing streak, the Congress got defeated in two of the three seats it had contested in the biennial legislative council polls in alliance with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), though the latter fared much better.
The results of the six constituencies that were declared on Monday saw the Congress losing both the Amravati and Chandrapur-Gadchiroli-Wardha seat to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). This comes as a major setback after the Congress’ poor performance in local bodies, where it came second to its ally NCP. The party, however, managed to retain its Latur seat contested by Dilip Deshmukh, brother of union minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, third time in a row.
The NCP won two — Parbhani and Raigad — of the three seats it had contested. The results for the third seat of Nashik remained undecided, as both the NCP and Sena got equal number of votes. The Raigad seat was won by Anil Tatkare, brother of water resources minister Sunil Tatkare, for the second consecutive time.
The results could lead to a change in the power dynamics in the legislative council. With NCP’s tally standing at 26 against Congress’ 22, the former could demand the post of chairman. The results led to murmurs of discontent within the Congress, with a section of party leaders blaming the NCP and infighting for the defeat.
In Amravati, Aniruddha Deshmukh, protégé of president Pratibha Patil’s son Raosaheb Shekhawat, lost to BJP’s Praveen Pote by a margin of 38 votes. The Congress suspects that its sitting legislators sabotaged the chances of its official candidate.
In Chandrapur, state youth Congress general secretary and son of former MP Naresh Pugalia, Rahul, lost to BJP’s Mitesh Bhangadiya by a margin of 203 votes. Bhangadiya’s victory has raised many eyebrows as Congress had maximum seats in the constituency. Bhangadiya, an irrigation contractor, is said to be known to NCP’s senior brass and had a tacit understanding with them.
Explaining the reason behind their defeat, state Congress chief Manickrao Thakre said: “The defeats are unexpected and unfortunate. I’ve sought reports from these constituencies.”
Another senior Congress party functionary said: “The NCP did not support us in Chandrapur and Amravati. Infighting was an issue. Also, we made a mistake in selection of candidates. The main reason, however, is the failure of the senior party brass in sending a strong message to the NCP.” He added that while the Congress followed its coalition dharma, the NCP stabbed them in the back.
The NCP has refuted the allegations. “We had asked our party cadre to support the Congress in Chandrapur and Amravati, which they did. These allegations are untrue. However, we had a few votes in these constituencies (Amravati and Chandrapur),” said NCP’s state party president Madhukar Pichad. He said that despite having a clear majority in Latur, the NCP had allowed the Congress to contest the seat.