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BJP scores spectacular victory over Cong-NCP in Sangli and Jalgaon despite Maratha stir civic polls

The victory is also well-timed for chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, who had been targeted over the Maratha protests.

pune Updated: Aug 04, 2018 15:47 IST
Shrinivas Deshpande
Shrinivas Deshpande
Hindustan Times, Pune
pune,bjp,Cong-NCP in Sangli and Jalgaon despite Maratha stir civic polls
JP supporters in Sangli celebrate after winning the Sangli, Miraj and Kupwad corporation elections on Friday. (UDAY DEOLEKAR/HT PHOTO)

Even as the ongoing agitations by the Maratha community targets the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government, the party registered impressive wins in two civic body elections that took place on August 1 — Jalgaon in North Maharashtra and Sangli-Miraj-Kupwad in the western part of the state.

The BJP won 41 of 78 seats in Sangli-Miraj-Kupwad — a traditional Congress-NCP stronghold. In Jalgaon, it wrested power from local strongman, Suresh Jain, who had aligned with Shiv Sena, winning 57 of 75 seats. Congress-NCP alliance won 35 seats in Sangli, while the Sena in Jalgaon won only 13 seats.

The BJP’s win is significant, as in both places, it managed to topple well-established bastions despite being on the backfoot in recent weeks after the Marathas and Dhangars (shepherds) began agitations demanding quotas. The Congress has controlled Sangli, where the Marathas are a dominant community, for more than a decade, while Jain has controlled Jalgaon for three decades.

The victory is also well-timed for chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, who had been targeted over the Maratha protests. “While there were protests by the Maratha community for their demands, which are genuine and just, the voters firmly believe only the BJP government is capable of giving the community reservations,” said Fadnavis.

“We are committed to the cause of development and creation of jobs in the state,” he said.

With these victories, the BJP now has control of 14 out of 25 civic bodies that have gone to the polls since 2015, and has captured a majority of the state’s urban political landscape as well. Only two more civic corporations, Ahmednagar and Dhule, are left to go to the polls, which are scheduled for December this year.

Jubilant state revenue minister Chandrakant Dada Patil who led the BJP’s campaign in Sangli said, “Yes this is a historic win in the bastion of the Congress and the NCP. The people have voted us for our performance in the last four years. I am truly grateful to Sanglikars and I assure them of a clean and transparent rule in the civic body.”

BJP’s victory in Sangli has come as a major blow to the Congress-NCP’s influence in the sugar belt of western Maharashtra. Considered a firm Congress bastion of more than three decades, Sangli was the hometown of former Maharashtra chief minister Vasantdada Patil, and was under the political influence of Congress leaders such as Madan Patil, Patangrao Kadam and Pratik Patil, the great grandson of Vasantdada Patil.

The Sangli civic election had also become a matter of prestige for NCP state president and former state finance minister Jayant Patil. In 2014, the BJP had bagged the Sangli Lok Sabha seat, while in the assembly polls (held in October 2014), the party secured four seats, the NCP (2), and one each was won by the Shiv Sena and Congress.

Political observers said that the Devendra Fadnavis government focused attention on this region and allocated nearly Rs 30 crore for constructions of roads in Sangli and Rs 20 crore for roads in the neighbouring Miraj town.

The Congress and the NCP had fielded a number of local heavy-weights including former mayors Kishor Jadhav and Idris Naikwadi who were defeated in the polls.

On other hand,BJP’s Chandrakant Patil led the campaign aggressively over the last six months. Significantly, the anti-BJP Maratha agitation failed to have any adverse impact on the BJP’s poll performance.

The Sangli defeat is a setback for state Nationalist Congress Party chief Jayant Patil, and state Congress’ youth wing president and legislator Vishwajit Kadam. Congress had 41 seats and the NCP, 19 corporators, in the outgoing body, while the BJP had officially no corporator in its kitty. Three of its party members had won civic seats as a part of a front floated by a local leader.

Kadam said he was shock at the loss, and alleged the BJP had resorted to illegal means to win the election. The victory in Sangli-Miraj for the BJP is also surprising, as the Maratha community is dominant here.

In Jalgaon, Jain was decimated even after controlling the civic body for more than three decades. Jain, a Shiv Sena leader and an accused in the Jalgaon housing scam, had been winning power through a local front he floated, the Khandesh Vikas Aghadi. This time, he decided to fight the election under the Sena’s party symbol.

Former mayor Lalit Kolhe, who was with the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, joined the BJP just a few days ahead of the elections, with 11 other corporators of his party. This helped BJP strengthen its position. The win in Jalgaon came despite an internal strife in the party between two senior leaders, former revenue minister Eknath Khadse and water resources minister Girish Mahajan.

Mahajan has been credited with this victory, although Khadse’s aides insisted their leader had rooted for going solo.

“The voters stood by us, believing in our promise of development. We will stick to our promise and development in Jalgaon will be visible in the next one year,” Mahajan said.

Gopichand Padalkar, who has been leading the reservation protest for the Dhangar community, said neither the Marathas nor Dhangars made their demand an election issue as the reservation has little importance in local elections. “If the decision about reservation is not taken well within time, the ruling parties will pay a heavy price in the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections,” he said.

First Published: Aug 04, 2018 15:46 IST