Image Courtesy: ndtv.com
In a major electoral shock for the BJP, 18 months before the scheduled state polls, in one of its most crucial bastions, the united candidate for the opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition on Thursday defeated the party’s contender in polls to a Maharashtra Legislative Council seat in Nagpur. While the print media has covered this, news hour television news is relatively silent. Amravati division graduates’ constituency has turned out to be the biggest upset among the five seats where Congress’ Dheeraj Lingade was leading late night Thursday, February 2. NCP retained its lone Aurangabad division graduates’ constituency in a tough battle with party candidate Vikram Kale polling 20,195 votes.
What makes the results a particularly huge blow for the BJP is that the constituency houses the headquarters of its ideological parent Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and is the home turf of prominent leaders like strongman in the state and deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and union minister, Nitin Gadkari reported both Indian Express and NDTV.
The Nagpur MLC elections were a key contest in the state after Shiv Sena dissident Eknath Shinde displaced Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, toppling the government after siding with the BJP in June 2022: the election saw the MVA’s Sudhakar Adbale win the Nagpur teachers’ seat, defeating the BJP-backed Nago Ganar, officials said.
The biennial elections to the upper house of the state legislature were mainly between the ruling tie-up of the BJP and Mr Shinde’s Shiv Sena faction and candidates backed by the MVA comprising Mr Thackeray’s Shiv Sena camp, the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
The six-year term of five council members – three from teachers and two from graduates constituencies – expires on February 7 and polling was held on Monday to fill up the upcoming vacancies. Both teachers and graduates fulfilling certain criteria and enrolled as voters were eligible to exercise their franchise in these elections.
Interestingly, the Konkan teachers’ constituency recorded the highest voter turnout at 91.02 per cent, while the Nashik division graduates seat logged the lowest polling at 49.28 per cent. The teachers’ constituencies of Aurangabad, Nagpur and Konkan divisions recorded 86 per cent, 86.23 per cent and 91.02 per cent voting, respectively.
In Nagpur — the home district of BJP’s union minister Nitin Gadkari, state party president Chadrashekhar Bawankule and Fadnavis — the MVA-backed Vidarbha Madhyamik Shikshak Sangh candidate Sudhakar Adbale defeated BJP-backed sitting MLC Nago Ganar. Adbale won 16,700 votes while Ganar managed to get 8,211 votes.
The BJP managed to win a single seat of the Konkan division teachers’ constituency where its candidate Dyaneshwar Mhatre defeated sitting MLC Balaram Patil of Peasants and Workers Party (PWP) by winning 20,648 votes and completing the required quota of 16,000 votes in the first round itself.
Besides Nagpur, another closely watched fight was in the Nashik division graduates seat, where the Congress saw a rebellion in its ranks in the run-up to the polls. Three-time council member Sudhir Tambe was the official Congress candidate for the seat, but he did not file his nomination papers.
As he opted out of the contest, his son Satyajeet Tambe decided to fight as an independent. The Congress later suspended both. Satyajeet Tambde is currently leading in the polls, officials said.
According to political commentators, the BJP-Shinde Sena government suffered losses, evidently for its stand against the implementation of the old pension scheme (OPS). Fadnavis, in the state Assembly, had said the government will never go back to the OPS. However, sensing the mood of graduate and teacher voters, both Shinde and Fadnavis later altered their stand, saying they were not negative about OPS. It, however, did not prove sufficient to score victories.
The BJP said it will introspect on the results while a jubilant Congress said the BJP must have realised the effects of trying to divide others’ houses and the fact that people of Maharashtra are against the government.