Maharashtra Legislative Council polls: MVA wins 4 of 6 seats

In a major setback, the BJP lost Council seats in its citadels of Nagpur and Pune
By Surendra P Gangan and Swapnil Rawal, Mumbai
UPDATED ON DEC 05, 2020 12:19 AM IST
NCP leader Supriya Sule along with its party workers celebrate after the final results of graduate seats in Maharashtra, outside Rashtravadhi Bhavan in Ballard Estate, on Friday.(Anshuman Poyrekar/ HT)

The first experiment of the three ruling parties – Congress, Shiv Sena and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) – in Maharashtra to contest as a coalition against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) proved successful as the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) won four of the six seats in biennial and by-elections to the state legislative Council. This is likely to pave the way for the MVA to contest the upcoming local body polls together to regain ground lost to the BJP since 2014. In a major setback, the BJP lost Council seats in its citadels of Nagpur and Pune.

Three graduate constituencies from Aurangabad, Nagpur and Pune, two teachers’ constituencies from Pune and Amravati and local bodies’ constituency in Dhule-Nandurbar went to polls on December 1. Of the six seats, four were bagged by the MVA, one by the BJP and one by an independent candidate.

Political analysts and leaders from the ruling parties termed the results “a turning point” in state politics, in the wake of the united show by the MVA. The victory in Council polls is being projected by the MVA as the acceptance of the three-party alliance by the voters spread across 24 districts as elections were held in five revenue divisions of the state.

The BJP could bag the local bodies’ seat from Dhule-Nandurbar constituency represented by Congress defector Amrish Patel. Abhijit Wanjari of Congress defeated BJP’s Sandip Joshi, with a huge margin from Nagpur graduate constituency. The BJP had retained the constituency since its inception and was represented by Union minister Nitin Gadkari five times since 1989 and also by the late Gangadharrao Fadnavis, father of former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis. A BJP leader said that giving a Brahmin candidate by replacing the sitting MLC Anil Sole was a mistake made by the party leadership, as voters were divided on caste lines. Both the seats in Pune division were won by NCP (Arun Lad in graduates’ constituency, with a margin of more than 50,000 votes) and Congress (Jayant Asgaonkar in teachers’ constituency) defeating the BJP candidates on their home turf. NCP’s Satish Chavan won from the Aurangabad graduates’ constituency for the third time in a row. His margin was more than 57,000 votes and he defeated BJP’s Shirish Boralkar. In Amravati teachers’ constituency, independent candidate Kiran Sarnaik defeated his nearest rival Shrikant Deshpande of Shiv Sena with a comfortable majority.

In the outgoing six seats, two were with the BJP (Nagpur and Pune graduates’ constituencies), one each with the Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP (Amravati teachers, Dhule-Nandurbar local bodies and Aurangabad graduates, respectively) and one with the independent (Pune teachers).

“This is the victory of the united front put up by three ruling parties and is an indication that people have accepted the alliance and its performance. The picture has changed in Maharashtra,” said NCP chief Sharad Pawar after the results. Pawar said the result of Dhule-Nandurbar by-election was as per the expectations and because of the hold of the candidate (Amrish Patel) in the constituency. “The results are not as per our expectations. We miscalculated the combined power of the three ruling parties under the MVA. It was our strategic mistake which will be rectified in future,” said leader of Opposition and former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis.

Ruling party leaders said it is a token of the acceptance of the leadership of the MVA. “The BJP has been decimated in 24 districts in the state (where the voters were spread) during the Council elections, which were fought directly from the people. This is ‘Maharashtra Express’ of MVA,” said former chief minister, public works department minister and Congress leader Ashok Chavan.

“Today’s results show that autorickshaw defeated the bullet train. We lost the Amravati seat, but this was never our seat traditionally. The seat is traditionally won by an independent candidate. Instead of telling us, the BJP should introspect as they have lost a seat that they held for decades,” said Sena minister Anil Parab.

“Voters got alternatives to hard-core Hindutva of the BJP and also to Congress’s secularism after the formation of the MVA. If the three ruling parties read the political meaning out of the results, this could have a long-lasting effect, which could dent the BJP significantly in the state. The Hindu votes, which were the monopoly of the saffron alliance of the BJP-Sena over the past few decades, have now been divided,” said Prakash Pawar, political analyst from Kolhapur in Western Maharashtra.

The Shiv Sena, however, lost the Amravati teachers’ constituency. The party headed by chief minister Uddhav Thackeray scored a nought in the election, while other two ruling parties won two seats each. Sena deputy leader and spokesperson Neelam Gorhe said the party won’t be surprised if the BJP helped an independent candidate defeat the Sena, as it had done in the past in Konkan. “We will get information and analyse what led to the loss in Amravati. We will not be surprised if the BJP helped the independent candidate win against the Shiv Sena,” said Gorhe.

Sena leaders argued the seat was always won by an independent candidate. Deshpande won in 2014 as an independent candidate, who extended support to the Sena subsequently. He was given a ticket by the party in 2020, a senior leader said. Sarnaik, the winner from the seat is a relative of home minister Anil Deshmukh and could lead to discomfort over the results between two ruling parties, according to an insider in Congress. He is also likely to support the ruling MVA on the floor of the Council.

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