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BJP loses in Maharashtra nagar panchayat polls. Is it a big deal?

Ashwin Aghor | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 5:15 IST
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The defeat

  • BJP could win just 39 of 345 seats up for grabs in recent nagar panchayat polls in Maharashtra

The context

  • Most of the areas that went to the polls have traditionally been Cong-NCP bastions
  • However, the BJP did lose in some of its leaders\' pet boroughs like Ahmednagar and Chandrapur

More in the story

  • What opposition parties and the BJP have to say about the results
  • How political analysts view the results - is the public sending a message to the BJP?

The calendar may have turned over to 2016, but the downswing in the BJP's electoral fortunes refuses to abate.

After a stellar 2014, which saw it come to power at the Centre and in Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand, the party suffered losses in almost every election it was part of in 2015, at all levels from panchayats to the Delhi and Bihar assemblies.

And now, it has fallen flat on its face in the recently-held nagar panchayat elections in Maharashtra.

The party slipped to fourth place in terms of number of wards won, behind the Congress, the Nationalist Congress Party and even its own long-time ally, Shiv Sena. It won just 39 of the 345 wards up for grabs in 19 towns across the state, and could barely manage to stay ahead of the tally of independents.

Also read: Why Owaisi's growing muscle in Maharastra matters to the rest of India

On the other hand, the Congress made big gains, winning 105 wards, followed by the NCP with 90 and Shiv Sena with 59. Independents won 37 wards while others registered 20 seats.

Interestingly, in November last year, when 59 other nagar panchayats went to the polls, the BJP had topped the tally with 254 wards, while the Congress won 239, NCP 201 and Shiv Sena 126.

Major setbacks

The towns that saw polling in this round included Raigad, Nandurbar, Jamkhed, Ahmednagar, Nanded, Osmanabad, Hingoli, Washim and Chandrapur. There were also by-elections in Ratnagiri, Jalgaon, Latur, Yavatmal, Wardha and Bhandara, as well as one seat (Chembur) in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation.

It must be mentioned here that most of the nagar panchayats and nagar parishads that went to the polls this time have been traditional bastions of the Congress and NCP.

However, the BJP did suffer major setbacks at Jamkhed in Ahmednagar district and Chandrapur district, where it has a strong presence. Ahmednagar is where MoS (Home) Ram Shinde hails from, while finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar comes from Chandrapur. The BJP lost ground to NCP in Jamkhed, while in Chandapur, the Congress won two nagar panchayats, with the third going to independents.

Opposition gloats

Unlike BJP leaders, Congress and NCP leaders managed to save face in their respective districts. Ashok Chavan of Congress managed to retain his home turf, Nanded.

However, the NCP suffered a jolt in Raigad district, as Shiv Sena registered victory at Tala and Poladpur nagar panchayats, and NCP only got Mangaon and Mhasala.

Also read: Divided they fall short: Sena & BJP suffer due to split in Kalyan-Dombivli

The Congress will come to power in seven of the 19 nagar panchayats, and could take control of four others with support from independents.

Congress spokesperson Sachin Savant said: "The results show that the general public of the country still supports the Congress. It is the reflection of a great deal of discontent among the people about the inefficiency of the BJP government, both at the state and Centre. This is a report card of the state government on its performance over the last one year, and it has completely failed."

The Leader of the Opposition in the Maharashtra Legislative Council, NCP's Dhananjay Munde, said: "This is the reaction to the anti-public interest policies of the state government. This is nothing but the crystal clear opinion of the rural population about the state government. The fact that even ministers failed in winning nagar panchayats in their home districts is self explanatory."

Has BJP lost anything?

BJP leaders, on the other hand, claim the party has lost nothing. The chief spokesperson of the Maharashtra BJP, Madhav Bhandari, feels the results, which constitute about 5% of the total nagar panchayat and nagar parishad seats in the state, cannot be used to determine the performance.

"Victory or defeat on these seats cannot affect the party at large. In fact, we have gained in these elections. BJP had just eight corporators in all these nagar panchayats, which has now grown to 33," he said.

Also read: Why is Shiv Sena celebrating Nitish Kumar's victory?

Political analysts agree with the BJP's assessment. Praveen Bardapurkar, senior journalist and analyst, says such elections can never determine the fate of any political party at state or national level.

"The political equations in such elections are always on a micro level. The personal relationship of the candidates with the voters is the only determining factor in these elections. The voters do not think beyond the issues they face every day in their village. They vote for the candidate who they feel would solve their problems and would be available anytime," he says.

Political analyst Prakash Akolkar agrees. "These results have absolutely nothing to do with state and national politics. If anyone thinks that BJP is finished and Congress has made a thumping comeback, that's not correct. The voters don't even think of state and national level issues while voting for nagar panchayat and nagar parishad polls."

Bardapurkar feels that every government goes through ups and downs during its tenure, and people are often given to discontent in the early months. "The BJP government in the state, too, has had a turbulent time initially. But it is now settling slowly. Several schemes and projects have started showing results, and many more are in the offing. I would not jump to conclusions just yet," he said.

Akolkar, meanwhile, feels the BJP and Shiv Sena are likely to go in for a post-poll tie-up.

"We saw this during the state assembly elections, and even in the Kalyan-Dombivli Municipal Corporation elections. No matter how bitterly they fight, BJP and Shiv Sena are known to join hands. This time, too, the possibility cannot be ruled out," he said.

Also read: Fatwa directs Muslim women not to contest Kolhapur civic polls

First published: 13 January 2016, 1:54 IST
 
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