Mumbai: Continuing its dream run in the local elections in Maharashtra, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Friday won the Latur municipal corporation in Marathwada with 13 more seats than the Congress.
Latur was the epicentre of Marathwada’s great drought in 2015-16 and water had to be supplied to the city by a specially-commissioned train.
Local political functionaries and commentators believe the BJP government’s drought-mitigation measures, especially the water train initiative, helped it win the municipal polls in Marathwada’s second-most important city, after Aurangabad.
In the 70-member municipal corporation, the BJP has won 41 seats followed by the Congress at 28. In the 2012 municipal polls in Latur, BJP failed to win a single seat while the Congress won 49.
The loss in Latur is a setback for the Congress party in general and local Congress legislator Amit Deshmukh in particular. Deshmukh is the son of a Congress veteran and former chief minister — the late Vilasrao Deshmukh.
BJP’s victory in Latur follows its triumph over the Congress in the Latur zilla parishad (district council) polls in February this year. This is for the first time in Latur’s history that the BJP will be in power in both the zilla parishad and municipal corporation.
The result is also a setback for the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) which has been reduced to a lone seat from 13 in 2012. The Shiv Sena too, which contested the elections independently, failed to win a single seat. In 2012, the Sena had won 6 seats.
Latur-based journalist and social activist Arun Samudre attributed the BJP’s victory to “drought-mitigation works personally supervised by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis”.
“The BJP and Fadnavis fully exploited drought relief measures, especially the water supply by train. People have rewarded the BJP for the government initiatives during drought,” he said.
A Congress functionary in Latur, who did not wish to be named, said Amit Deshmukh’s “style of functioning was majorly responsible for the loss”.
“Deshmukh remained inaccessible to people and Congress workers even during the worst phase of drought. BJP minister Sambhajirao Patil-Nilangekar campaigned aggressively in the polls while Deshmukh was complacent,” the Congress functionary said.
Maharashtra Congress president Ashok Chavan, who is from Marathwada, told Marathi news channel ABP Majha that the Congress had not done badly in Latur. “It is true that we fell short of majority by some 10-15 seats but we have not done too badly. However, we will look more closely at the results and find out what went wrong,” he said.
The BJP is also on course to win Chandrapur municipal corporation in Vidarbha from Congress and NCP. According to the latest reports, the BJP had won 32 seats in the 66-member municipal body while Congress got 17.
In Marathwada’s Parbhani though, the Congress made impressive gains winning 31 seats in the 65-member municipal corporation till reports last came in. The BJP and Shiv Sena had won 8 and 7 seats, respectively. The NCP had won 7 seats and was leading in three.