The MLC election result in Maharashtra is considered as a big setback for the BJP that lost power last year in the state. Of the six seats of the Maharashtra Legislative Council where polling was held earlier this week, the BJP has won only one. The ruling Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress coalition has won four seats and an independent member has taken the remaining seat.
On the other hand, Shiv Sena did not win a single seat even though its alliance partners bagged four. The Sena’s lone candidate lost in Amravati teachers’ constituency. The BJP took solace in victory of Amrish Patel from Dhule-Nandurbar local-self constituency where sitting MLC Patel had quit Congress to join BJP ahead of 2019 assembly elections.
The BJP appears to have lost out in its perceived strongholds, the graduate constituencies. Its biggest loss is the Nagpur seat, a party stronghold that was represented in the past by Union Minister Nitin Gadkari and former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’s father Gangadhar Rao Fadnavis. Gadkari, who first won the constituency in 1988, scored four more victories from there before contesting the 2014 Lok Sabha election that brought the BJP to power at the centre.
Another major setback was in Pune where BJP leaders, including Fadnavis and Maharashtra BJP chief Chandrakant Patil, also campaigned extensively. The seat was wrested by the NCP.
Reacting to the outcome, the leader of Opposition and senior BJP leader admitted that the Council polls are not as per our expectations. “We were expecting more seats but won only one. We miscalculated the combined power of the three parties (Maha-Vikas-Aghadi),” Fadnavis added.
He also taunted Shiv Sena saying, “Although Shiv Sena has the chief minister’ post, it could only win one seat. The election has actually benefited the Congress and the NCP more than the Sena. The party should think about it.”
The elections held on Tuesday were seen as a prestige battle between the Uddhav Thackeray-led MVA government and the opposition BJP, which have collided on a range of controversies in recent months. This is also the first electoral test for the year-old coalition of ideologically opposite parties, which has repeatedly been derided by the BJP as an unstable entity.
All the pre-poll arithmetic, organisational strength, meticulous campaign and the party’s stronghold did not help BJP candidate Sandip Joshi as he lost to Wanjari of Congress by 18,910 votes. This is for the first time a candidate from BJP or its previous avatar, Jansangh, is defeated in this constituency since its inception.
A sizable section within the BJP, who preferred anonymity for obvious reasons pointed out that a section of BJP activists didn’t work whole-heartedly for Joshi as the sitting legislator from the constituency, Anil Sole, a protégé of Gadkari, was replaced by Joshi at the eleventh hour.
The December elections also a big jolt for the Sena which could not bag a single seat. It even could not retain its Amravati seat either. It’s purely a gain for the NCP that has already begun to marginalise its two prime allies, the Congress and the Sena.
The election also fought on caste-line and the Congress-NCP succeeded to polarise the OBC votes against BJP It’s high time that the sangh parivar to re-assess themselves and find out the reasons why it failed to keep its citadel intact.