Mumbai: It was a mixed bag of results for the Maha Vikas Aghadi partners and the BJP in the byelections to the 84 Zilla Parishad (ZP) seats and 144 Panchayat Samiti seats in the six ZPs of Dhule, Nandurbar, Akola, Washim, Nagpur, Palghar and 38 Panchayat Samitis. The byelections were held after the Supreme Court’s decision to quash the political quota for OBCs in the local bodies.
Even though the Maha Vikas Aghadi partners contested these elections independently, their combined tally in ZP elections stood at 46 against the BJP’s 22 and 77 Panchayat Samiti seats to the BJP’s 33.
The BJP emerged on top, winning 22 of the 85 seats in six ZPs followed by the Congress (19), the NCP (15) and the Shiv Sena (12). However, the BJP’s attempt to ally with the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena in the tribal-dominated Palghar district proved unfruitful, as the Shiv Sena gained the number one slot.
In 144 Panchayat Samiti seats, the Congress, which had been proclaiming about going it alone, stood vindicated, pushing the BJP to the second spot and winning 36 seats to the BJP’s 33, the Shiv Sena (23) and the NCP (18).
These results have sent a strong signal to the ruling partners that together they can win and take on the BJP in the upcoming civic and local body elections. It has also indicated that if the three parties harp on their ‘going solo’ stand, the BJP may dent their poll prospects.
At the same time, the poll results have been an eye-opener for the BJP – it cannot win every time by levelling corruption charges against the MVA and issuing new deadlines for the collapse of its government. It will have to revisit its poll strategy by cashing in on the anti-incumbency factor while the MVA will have to focus on the implementation of development decisions and not merely on announcements, to consolidate its position.
Notably, the Congress trounced the BJP in its stronghold, Nagpur ZP and the pocket borough of Union Minister Nitin Gadkari and former CM Devendra Fadnavis. Congress Minister Sunil Kedar is credited with Congress’s performance in Nagpur despite some of his party leaders allegedly working for the BJP.
In Dhule, the BJP retained its supremacy as the Congress failed to reach out to the voters with a united face. In Akola, the Prakash Ambedkar-led Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi won by flying colours while in Palghar, the Shiv Sena bagged more seats though the party MP Rajendra Gavit’s son faced a humiliating defeat.
State NCP President and Water Resources Minister Jayant Patil said, “The results have shown that the MVA’s popularity is increasing day by day. It has also shown that the people have rejected the BJP ideology. I am confident that even in the upcoming elections the mandate will be in favour of MVA.’’
State Congress president Nana Patole asserted that the bypoll results were a clear answer to those who were thinking of ending the political presence of the Congress party. ‘’It has proved that Congress can effectively counter BJP’s anti democracy, anti-farmer and worker policies,’’ he noted.
Fadnavis said, "After the Gram Panchayat elections, voters have once again shown faith in the BJP. The BJP’s base is steadily increasing and that of the others is shrinking. The Shiv Sena is going further down.”
Polling took place on Tuesday and counting is underway. According to the State Election Commission (SEC) in Maharashtra, a voter turnout of around 63 per cent was recorded in these Zilla Parishads on Tuesday. The byelections were ordered by the Supreme Court after it quashed the 27 per cent political quota for OBCs.
The state government had recently promulgated an ordinance proposing a quota for OBCs which would not exceed the 50 per cent ceiling. BY the time the government had brought in the ordinance, the SEC had initiated the poll process and did not consider the state government’s plea for its application in these byelections.