Amid Maratha quota stir, BJP seats in Maharashtra civic polls increase five-fold since 2014

Mumbai: The ongoing Maratha quota stir failed to dent the fortunes of the ruling BJP and it swept the crucial polls to the Jalgaon and Sangli civic bodies on Friday. In Sangli, a Maratha stronghold and a sugar bastion, it has wrested power from the Congress and the NCP. The result was bitter for NCP strongman and state president Jayant Patil, as well as for Vishwajeet Kadam, the state president of the Youth Congress.

In the Jalgaon civic body, the BJP ended the charismatic 35-year winning streak of Shiv Sena leader Suresh Jain, which had thrived regardless of his political affiliations. In a massive sprint, the BJP bagged 41 of the 78 seats in Sangli, a vast improvement over their 2013 tally of a mere six seats. Then, the Congress had secured 41 and the NCP 19. This time, the Congress-NCP combine managed to secure only 35 seats (Congress 20, NCP 15), despite leading in the early rounds of counting. Jayant Patil lost Maratha-dominated Sangli on home ground. It was the first election for Patil after he took charge as state president.

It was also the first election for Kadam after the death of his father and Congress strongman Patangrao Kadam – and his unopposed election as a Member of the Legislative Assembly in the by-election held in May this year.After a grand victory in Sangli and Jalgaon, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis congratulated voters for reposing faith in the BJP. He said, “We humbly accept the people’s verdict. I would like to assure that the BJP is committed to resolving problems like reservation, farmers’ issues and development.” According to a source, political parties brazenly pumped money into Sangli and the rate per vote was more than a grand.

Kadam concurred with these reports and said: “Our party has worked for the welfare of Sangli ever since the inception of the civic body. This is clearly a win of the BJP’s money power over the Congress’ people’s power.” However, he disagreed that tickets were given to weak candidates. “If that were true, Congress would not have won more seats than the NCP,” said Kadam. The sources claimed that cash-strapped Congress did not provide the necessary back-up to the candidates, whereas the NCP and  the BJP pumped huge amounts. In Congress, the candidates were asked to fend for themselves. Sanjay Bajaj, city president of the NCP, claimed there was tampering of the EVMs. He further alleged that the BJP had spent Rs 500 crore on the civic poll, which was more than the outlay of the civic body.

Likewise, the BJP won by a landslide in Jalgaon to secure 57 of the 75 seats, to break the near four-decade stranglehold of Shiv Sena leader Suresh Jain, the district’s influential political boss. Jain’s local front, the Khandesh Vikas Aghadi, which had so far dominated in Jalgaon, managed only 15 seats. This despite contesting on the Shiv Sena’s symbol. Sources claim Jain had, in fact, supported the BJP, in quid pro quo for his release from custody, with the support of Fadnavis and guardian minister Girish Mahajan. While both the Congress and the NCP failed to open their accounts in Jalgaon, the Asaduddin Owaisi-led AIMIM managed to bag three seatsIn 2013 the BJP had managed to win a paltry 15 seats, as opposed to Jain’s KVA, which had bagged 33.

‘‘It is a historic win for our party. The people of Jalgaon have accepted the BJP’s development model,” said Water Resources Minister Girish Mahajan, considered the architect of the party’s victory. The win is expected to enhance Mahajan’s stature within the BJP, as against that of senior party leader Eknath Khadse. Khadse is the other important BJP leader from Jalgaon, who until recently, had been regarded as its face in North Maharashtra.

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