Maharashtra local bodies’ bypolls: BJP scores highest in ZPs, but MVA reigns supreme

Congress performs significantly well in both ZP and panchayat samitis, winning maximum seats in latter

The Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) in Maharashtra comprising the Shiv Sena, Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) overwhelmed the BJP in the by-election results of 85 zilla parishad and 144 panchayat samiti seats announced on Wednesday.

The bypolls were held in six districts– Nagpur, Akola, Washim, Latur, Dhule and Palghar, with 367 candidates in the fray in the ZP polls and 555 candidates for the panchayat samiti seats.

While the three parties together won 46 of the 85 seats in the ZP bypolls, the BJP nevertheless emerged as the single largest party here, winning 23 seats.

However, most significant of all was the Congress’ spirited performance, with the party coming off best within the coalition, winning 17 ZP seats and bagging the highest number of seats (35) among all parties (including the BJP) in the panchayat samiti by-polls.

The MVA won a total 73 of the 144 panchayat samiti seats, with the BJP winning 33, second to the Congress’ tally. The Shiv Sena and the NCP managed to win 12 and 17 ZP seats respectively, while bagging 22 and 16 panchayat samiti seats respectively.

PCC chief’s hopes

A jubilant Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) chief Nana Patole, who has been vocal about the party contesting independently in the coming civic body polls, said the results proved that the party was on its way to becoming the top party in the State.

“Given the high-handed manner in which the BJP government at the Centre is behaving, be it suppressing farmers in Uttar Pradesh or abusing Central probe agencies, I think people have realised that only the Congress has the wherewithal to rein it in… I thank the public in all these six districts for recognising the Congress as a viable force to counter the BJP,” said Mr. Patole, while promising to repair all organisational glitches within the party.

At the same time, Mr. Patole remained non-committal on whether the Congress would fight in alliance with the Sena or the NCP in the crucial civic polls next year, merely remarking that his aim was to build the party’s strength.

According to observers, the Congress’s win would certainly give a major boost to the party rank and file ahead of the municipal corporation elections.

Despite the by-elections being those of local bodies, the ZP seats were hotly contested, given that the prestige of a number of State Ministers, MLAs and MPs were on the line.

The Shiv Sena suffered a major setback in the Palghar ZP after MP Rajendra Gavit’s son, Rohit Gavit, lost the Vanai seat to the BJP’s Pankaj Kore. Both the Sena and the BJP won five seats each in the Palghar ZP bypoll.

The Congress swept the crucial Nagpur ZP, defeating the BJP and proving that the party still reigns supreme in the Vidarbha region, which is incidentally considered to be the BJP’s stronghold. The Congress won nine of the 16 ZP seats, despite the machinations of party general secretary Ashish Deshmukh, who had campaigned for the BJP candidates. The result was a personal victory for senior Congressman and Maharashtra Minister Sunil Kedar, who spearheaded the party’s campaigning.

However, the Akola ZP was won by Prakash Ambedkar’s Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA), which snared six of the 14 ZP seats, defeating all the major parties.

BJP MLA from Nandurbar Vijaykumar Gavit’s daughter Supriya was among the winners in the Nandurbar ZP, while his nephew Pankaj suffered defeat.

Senior Congress leader and Maharashtra Tribal Affairs Minister K.C. Padvi’s sister, Geeta Padvi, won one of the14 seats in the Nandurbar ZP.

The BJP retained the Dhule ZP, winning eight of the 15 seats, with a notable win being that of Dharti Deore, who is the daughter of the president of the Gujarat State BJP C.R. Patil.

Darekar dismisses Patole’s remarks

Meanwhile, BJP Leader of Opposition (LoP) Pravin Darekar dismissed Mr. Patole’s remarks of the Congress’s win being significant, retorting that supplanting the BJP in Maharashtra was not an easy task for any of the MVA constituents.

“The Congress may have scored a few more seats in the local bodies, but it has an uphill task if it seeks to dislodge the BJP,” he said.

Remarking pointedly that the Shiv Sena, which was the BJP’s ‘natural ally’, was in a sorry state after the results, Mr. Darekar claimed that the Congress and the NCP, which had performed better than the Sena, were bent on “finishing the party”.

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