Maharashtra Legislative Council polls: jolt to BJP as ruling MVA bags three graduate constituencies

The coalition wins in Nagpur, Pune and Aurangabad graduate constituencies but loses to the BJP in Dhule-Nandurbar

In a major jolt to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the ruling tripartite ‘Maha Vikas Aghadi’ (MVA) swept the three graduate constituency seats in the Maharashtra Legislative Council (MLC) polls, breaching the BJP’s bastion in Nagpur and clinching the crucial Pune seat.

The counting to five constituencies – three graduates’ and two teachers’ – commenced on Thursday. In the final results to the graduate seats declared on Friday morning, the MVA coalition of the Shiv Sena, Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress bagged all three seats, toppling the BJP in the all-important Nagpur, Pune and Aurangabad graduate constituency seats.

The Nagpur graduate seat, considered a veritable pocket borough of former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’ family and a seemingly impregnable BJP bastion — the seat having been held by Mr. Fadnavis’ father Gangadhar Fadnavis in the past as well as senior BJP leader Nitin Gadkari — was breached by the Congress for the first time in more than 55 years.

Abhijit Vanjari, the Congress’ candidate, polled an impressive 55,947 votes of a total 1.33 lakh votes, trouncing his nearest rival, the BJP’s Sandeep Joshi, by nearly 15,000 votes.

Likewise, in the hotly contested Pune graduate constituency, the NCP’s candidate, sugar baron Arun Lad, who polled 1.22 lakh votes, beat the BJP’s Sangram Deshmukh by a phenomenal margin of more than 48,000 votes.

Interestingly, the Sangli-based Mr. Lad, who is the president of the Kranti Co-operative Sugar Factory, was responsible for the NCP’s defeat in the last Pune graduate constituency election when he had raised the banner of rebellion.

The seat, while traditionally an NCP bastion, had come to be seen as a BJP stronghold in the last 20 years, with current BJP State president Chandrakant Patil holding it twice.

Against this backdrop, the Pune graduate constituency turned into a ‘prestige fight’ with senior NCP leader Jayant Patil, the current Water Resources Minister as well Mr. Chandrakant Patil both throwing their weight behind their party’s respective candidates in the vigorous campaign during the poll run-up.

Public has rejected BJP: Pawar

The results clearly hint at Maharashtra’s changing political scenario, said NCP chief Sharad Pawar, speaking after the results.

“The results clearly show that Maharashtra’s public has rejected the BJP and has emphatically endorsed the ruling MVA. It is also testament to the unity of the tripartite MVA government,” he said.

Observing that the MVA’s defeat in the Dhule-Nandurbar MLC seat (whose results were declared on Thursday) was not surprising, Mr. Pawar said that the BJP could win there only because sitting MLC Amrish Patel had merely switched sides to quit the Congress and join the saffron party.

“The BJP’s win in Dhule-Nandurbar is not a victory in the real sense…in contrast, the MVA’s candidates swept the crucial Nagpur, Pune and Aurangabad graduate constituency seats. Nagpur was with the BJP for more than five decades with Nitin Gadkari and the Fadnavis family winning for a number of years from this seat. Even the graduate voters in Pune did not support us. But this year, we won big in Pune,” Mr. Pawar observed.

‘Not people’s verdict’

Hitting out at the NCP chief, Mr. Chandrakant Patil said that the poll results could not be construed as a collective public verdict on the BJP.

“If any of these MVA parties had the guts, then they ought to have fought alone. Very conveniently, all three — the NCP, the Sena and the Congress — came together to contest against the BJP. It should also be remembered that Arun Lad had once rebelled against his own party [the NCP]. So, this is not the people’s verdict,” he said.

In the Aurangabad graduate constituency seat, the NCP’s Satish Chavan (the MVA candidate) won a hat-trick, bagging the seat for the third consecutive time by beating his BJP adversary Satish Boralkar by more than half-lakh votes. Mr. Chavan polled 1.16 lakh votes.

Meanwhile, in the Pune Teacher’s constituency, the MVA’s Jayant Aasgavkar (Congress) has secured a comfortable lead of 6,000 votes over his nearest rival Dattaray Sawant (Independent) and is heading for a comfortable win.

A humdinger of a contest is in offing in the Amravati Teacher’s seat, with Independent candidate Kiran Sarnaik taking a slender lead of a little over 1,000 votes over the MVA candidate Shrikant Deshpande. The counting for both teachers’ seats in currently under way.


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