Mumbai: In a major boost to the three-party Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in Maharashtra, often termed as an unnatural coalition of ideological rivals, the alliance swept the elections to six seats to the state legislative council by winning one and leading in three others, leaving the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) battered.
According to the trends till 2 pm Friday, the BJP, which aggressively campaigned against the MVA, comprising the Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress, was losing in five seats.
Significantly, it is staring at a defeat in what has been its bastion, the Nagpur graduates constituency, which was once held by BJP strongman Nitin Gadkari.
Of the six seats, two were earlier held by the BJP, one each by the Congress and NCP, and two others were held by independent MLCs. Their terms expired on 19 July this year.
Five of these seats were teachers and graduates constituencies, while one was a local bodies constituency. The elections were held Tuesday.
Significance of the elections
The MLC elections were important as they were a litmus test for the MVA’s strength against the BJP.
It was not only the first major election after the 2019 assembly polls, but also the very first one that the Shiv Sena, NCP and the Congress contested together. Of the five teachers and graduates seats, the Sena contested in one, and the Congress and NCP on two each. The local bodies seat was contested by the Congress.
Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress came together to form the MVA last year to keep the BJP from coming to power after the Maharashtra assembly results threw up a hung assembly. The BJP, which emerged as the single-largest party with 105 seats in the 288-member assembly, severely criticised the MVA for stealing its mandate and cheating the people of Maharashtra by forming an “unnatural alliance” that people had not voted for.
In this backdrop, the results are a first clear indication that the MVA enjoys public support and if the three parties stick together, the going will get tough for the BJP in Maharashtra, political observers said.
The results are also a boost to the MVA, which has been tackling internal rumblings and issues of inadequate coordination between allies even as it completed a year in office with Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray as chief minister.
Speaking to reporters in Pune, NCP President Sharad Pawar said, “We have demonstrated our work over the past one year. We had never won the Nagpur seat. The Congress won that fortress. This result in Maharashtra is a victory of the MVA.”
He added, “The common man too has accepted the MVA government. The result is different than what people have been accepting until now. The landscape in Maharashtra is changing.”
Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant said the “Amar Akbar Anthony” government, as some in the BJP were calling it, has turned out to be just as successful as the film itself.
“The reason why the three parties had come together was because there was a big danger to democracy because of the BJP. The three parties have seen fruits of their efforts today and the BJP’s illusion of 105 seats becoming 150 some day has been shattered,” he added.
Of the six constituencies, as of 2 pm, the MVA had officially won one seat, the Aurangabad graduates constituency, where NCP’s Satish Chavan, who had also held the seat earlier, defeated BJP’s Shirish Bornalkar.
The alliance was leading in three other seats — the Pune teachers and graduates constituencies, and the Nagpur graduates constituency.
The only seat that the BJP won was the Dhule Nandurbar local bodies MLC seat, where its import from the Congress, Amrish Patel, defeated Congress candidate Abhijit Patil.
However, even in this seat, analysts said the BJP’s victory is more to do with the fact that Patel was an influential and rich candidate than he being from the BJP.
In the sixth seat, the Amravati teachers constituency, an independent candidate, Kiran Sarnaik, was leading with MVA’s Shrikant Deshpande, a Shiv Sena candidate, a close second. Deshpande had held the constituency earlier as an independent MLC.
Of all the seats, losing the Nagpur graduates constituency will sting the BJP and opposition leader Devendra Fadnavis the most. The party decided to replace Anil Sole, who was the MLC from the seat, with Sandip Joshi, the mayor of the Nagpur Municipal Corporation and a close aide of former CM Fadnavis.
Even as the final result for the seat has not been officially declared yet, the MVA has announced Congress candidate Abhijit Wanjari’s victory.
In Pune’s teachers and graduate constituencies, Congress’ Jayant Asagaonkar and NCP’s Arun Lad, respectively, were on their way to register a victory as of 1 pm, defeating BJP’s Jitendra Pawar and Sangramsingh Deshmukh.
The constituencies were earlier held by independent MLC Dattatray Sawant and the current BJP state president Chandrakant Patil, respectively.
Union Minister and senior BJP leader Prakash Javadekar has also represented the Pune’s graduate constituency in the past.
‘Polls show BJP can’t come back to power as long as MVA sticks’
Political commentator Pratap Asbe said this election was a trailer of what can happen if the three parties in the MVA stick together.
“Political arithmetic is such that 2 and 2 don’t make four, but they make five or even seven. And when there are divisions, they are steeper. This election gave us a glimpse of that,” Asbe said.
“The BJP on a daily basis held agitations and made statements about how it will come back to power again in Maharashtra. It still can, but this election shows that as long as the three MVA allies stick together, the going will be difficult for the BJP. The party will have to make some political adjustments if it wants to regain Maharashtra and there is a limit to which it can hold on to its ego,” Asbe added.
Political commentator Hemant Desai said: “BJP leaders made statements such as the MVA will know exactly where it stands after these elections and heavily campaigned across the six constituencies, spending a lot of money on it. The party’s defeat in places such as Pune and Nagpur where the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is strong is especially a stinging defeat.”
“The results show that the MVA allies have a good shot in the local body polls, including elections to the Mumbai civic body, if they stick together and the BJP really needs to do some introspection,” he added.