Maharashtra’s ruling alliance partners improve tally in local bodies by-polls
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has won 22 out of the 85 zilla parishad (ZP) seats for which by-polls were held in Maharashtra on Tuesday. The Congress won 19, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) 15, Shiv Sena 12, and Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi eight. The BJP’s tally has gone down by nine seats. The Congress, NCP, and Shiv Sena, which are part of the state’s ruling coalition, together won 46 of the 85 district council seats. They gained 10 seats.
The Congress won the highest--36--of the 144 panchayat samiti seats for which by-polls were held. The BJP won 33, Shiv Sena 23, and NCP 18. Smaller parties and independent candidates won the remaining 34 seats.
The by-elections were held after the Other Backward Classes (OBC) members were forced to vacate their local bodies seats won in January 2020 in Dhule, Nandurbar, Akola, Washim, Nagpur, and Palghar as the Supreme Court quashed the quota for them. The court said the 27% quota in seats for OBC in the local bodies can be continued only if it is backed by empirical data. It reiterated the quota introduced in 1994 taken together with the reservation for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes cannot exceed the 50% cap.
The by-polls were held months before local bodies’ elections including in Mumbai are due in February.
Experts say the results show the OBC community has not voted decisively for or against any party. The BJP has blamed the Uddhav Thackeray-led government for the Supreme Court order against OBC reservation saying it failed to convince the court on why the community needed it.
Soon after the court’s order in March, the government promulgated an ordinance granting up to 27% reservation to OBC candidates in rural local bodies. It is expected to promulgate another ordinance to ensure political reservation in urban local bodies.
“It is clear that the (ruling) MVA (Maha Vikas Aghadi) parties will have to come together if they want to keep BJP out of power in the next assembly elections. It would also make sense for them to contest next year’s local bodies’ polls together. Not only do they have a chance to win more seats, but it would also provide stability to the Thackeray-led government,” said political analyst Surendra Jondhale. “...the results show (the BJP is) still in a better position that other parties...” He added there could be disappointment among the OBCs that the BJP-led central government is not helping them. “In Vidarbha, the OBCs have probably voted for the Congress. This could be an opportunity for the MVA to win over a large chunk of OBCs provided it takes concrete steps to restore the community’s political reservation.”