Mumbai: The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress in Maharashtra suffered a big setback on Tuesday when their joint candidate for the Osmanabad-Latur-Beed legislative council seat lost to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate.

Suresh Dhas of the BJP defeated NCP-Congress supported Ashok Jagdale by 76 votes in the election held on 21 May. Counting of votes for this seat was put on hold pending a petition in the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay high court. Members of the local self-government bodies were the electors. Of the total 1,005 voters, 527 voted for Dhas and 451 chose the NCP-Congress nominee. A large number of Congress and NCP voters are believed to have voted for the BJP nominee.

The result is a personal setback for NCP leader and leader of the opposition in the legislative council Dhananjay Munde, who had staked all on this election. At the same time, it is a shot in the arm for BJP leader Pankaja Munde, Dhananjay’s estranged cousin and state women and child welfare minister.

The Munde cousins have been engaged in a fierce turf war in Marathwada, especially the Beed, Osmanabad, and Parali belt. Since the Mundes belong to the Other Backward Classes (OBC), a significant constituency for all the political parties and especially the BJP, the turf war holds significance in terms of the larger politics in Maharashtra.

Talking to reporters after the result announcement, Pankaja Munde acknowledged the help of the BJP’s partner in government Shiv Sena in her win.

With this win, the BJP’s strength in the upper house of the state legislature goes up to 19. The Maharashtra legislative council has 78 members and the NCP is the single-largest party though its strength has come down from 23 to 20 in the last four years. The Shiv Sena has 11 seats. Election to this seat was held on 21 May along with other five seats. The results for the remaining five seats were declared on 24 May and the BJP and the Shiv Sena won two seats each while the NCP won one seat.

In his first reaction to reporters after the result, Dhananjay Munde accepted “full responsibility for the defeat". The NCP-Congress nominee Ashok Jagdale accused the Congress of “betrayal".