Demonetisation fails to dent BJP fortunes in Maharashtra polls

BJP emerges as single largest party by winning 848 councillor seats in local polls

The results indicate a major surge in Maharashtra’s urban and semi-urban regions for the BJP, which won only 298 councillor seats in 2011 polls. Photo: PTI
The results indicate a major surge in Maharashtra’s urban and semi-urban regions for the BJP, which won only 298 councillor seats in 2011 polls. Photo: PTI

Mumbai: In a sign that demonetisation is yet to affect its electoral fortunes in the urban and semi-urban regions of Maharashtra, the Bharatiya Janata Party on Monday emerged as the single largest party in elections to 164 municipal bodies held a day earlier.

The BJP, the senior partner in Maharashtra’s ruling alliance, toppled Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in terms of the number of municipal bodies, councillors and municipal council presidents it won.

Results for 3,259 of the total 3,733 seats of councillors declared till 8pm on Monday showed the BJP had won 848, Congress 688, NCP 576 and Shiv Sena 616. Others had emerged victorious 531 seats, with counting still on for remaining ones.

The results represent a massive surge in Maharashtra’s urban and semi-urban constituencies for the BJP, which won only 298 seats of councillors in the 2011 polls, against the NCP’s 916 and the Congress’ 771. In 2011, the Shiv Sena had won 264 seats.

Sunday’s election was the first of a four-phased local body and district council polls in Maharashtra. It was also the first major state-wide election in Maharashtra since the 2014 general election and assembly polls. Political observers have termed it a “mini-assembly election” since it spanned 25 of the state’s 36 districts.

Congress came a close second in terms of winning control over municipal bodies, followed by the NCP and Shiv Sena. In elections for municipal council presidents of 147 towns, the BJP had won 57 till the last reports of counting came in at 8pm. The Shiv Sena had won 24, the Congress 20 and the NCP 19.

During the campaign, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis defended demonetisation, saying it was aimed at ending “black money and corruption” while the opposition Congress and NCP criticized the currency shortage.

Though the BJP emerged the number one party in these polls, it lost miserably in the pocketboroughs of some of its top leaders. Senior leader and rural development minister Pankaja Munde could not ensure victory for the BJP candidate in Parali municipal council, where her estranged cousin and NCP leader Dhananjay Munde had an emphatic win. The BJP also lost in Bhokardan municipal council in Marathwada which is the hometown of Maharashtra BJP president Raosaheb Danve.

The NCP too suffered serious setbacks in the constituencies long held by the party and some of its senior leaders.

In western Maharashtra’s Sangli-Kolhapur districts, the NCP lost to the BJP including in the constituency of its senior leader Jayant Patil.

The Congress won the municipal council of Karad in Satara district, which is the constituency of former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan. But it lost to the BJP in the direct election for the municipal council president.

“The direct election has created this situation in several towns where one party has won the council but the council president belongs to the rival party. This may affect governance and administration at these councils,” senior journalist and political commentator Abhay Deshpande said.

In Konkan’s Sindhudurg district, Congress leader Narayan Rane, who was keeping a low profile after his defeat in the 2014 assembly election, ensured victory for the party but lost in neighbouring Malwan council.

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