Defeat in West Nagpur, alarming bells for BJP

Nagpur: The BJP tried its best to attract voters to its fold on the basis of its performance, nationalism and other issues of national importance, but it failed to translate it into votes and could not fetch votes as per its expectations. Though, it is a single largest party in the state assembly election, the result is discussed widely.

A number of stalwarts who had to bite the dust include minister Pankaja Munde. Another unexpected and shocking defeat was in the West Nagpur assembly constituency. The seat remained with the party for three decades even when the party was not in power, neither in the state nor at the Centre.

It was this particular seat, where the saffron party was always sure of a win irrespective of any prevailing wave or the mood. It all started with Vinod Gudadhe-Patil (the then BJP leader, who later quit the party) registering his victory for the first time for the party in the 90s. He represented the seat for two full terms. This was followed by the incumbent Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, when he successfully contested the assembly election for the first time in the late 90s. Interestingly, Fadnavis also completed two successful terms from the same seat before switching over to South-West Nagpur. In 2009, the ticket was allotted to Sudhakarrao Deshmukh, who too bagged the seat for two consecutive terms.

However, this time the voters rejecting Deshmukh preferred Congress and elected city Congress president Vikas Thakre, who contested from the same seat for second time.

The seat assumes more significance against the backdrop of the fact that chief minister Devendra Fadnavis stays in the same constituency and has his name in the electoral list from here. More so, union minister for road transport had shifted to West Nagpur a few years back – though temporarily. Another BJP MLC Parinay Fuke, who was also made the minister for a brief period stays in the same locality.

The traditional bastion of the BJP, West Nagpur is considered to be one of the most-posh localities, including that of Dharampeth, Gokulpeth, Shankar Nagar, Shivaji Nagar among others. The seat also has a large number of upper caste voters, considered to be the traditional BJP vote-bank.

Complacency among the party workers, anti-incumbency factor and Deshmukh losing popularity among the people over the period of time are some of the reasons believed to be behind the BJP’s debacle. Poor turnout by the upper caste voters or some even choosing NOTA is also attributed to the party’s dismal performance. However, the party does not completely agree to the reasons.

Says Sanjay Bangale, a corporator and city BJP vice-president, “It is not true that the party made a choice of wrong candidate. Deshmukh had been representing the constituency for two terms and has been working hard for the people, bringing a number of developmental projects in the constituency. He has delivered on several promises.” The BJP had also distributed ownership pattas to over 750 slum-dwellers in different localities of the constituency, besides constructing cement roads in a number of localities.

Though, Bangale agreed that the party workers did not made the kind of efforts they should have put in to ensure party’s victory. “The result is indeed shocking for us; it is an unexpected defeat and we will certainly introspect it.”

A number of traditional voters are employed outside Nagpur and hence could not turn up to exercise their franchise, said Bangale.

The Congress on the other hand, this time had done it home work very well it seems. Right from allotting the ticket to touching people’s issues and working unitedly brought the results in its favour. Factionalism and infighting within the Congress are known to everyone for long. However, this time all the leaders put up a united face canvassing for Thakre. Congress leaders from all the factions had resolved that they would not cause any damage to its official candidate, said a party leader.

Rajkumar Kamnani, block president of West Nagpur said, “Congress touched upon the burning issues of the public. People were fed up with the rising electricity and water tariffs and property taxes. This collapsed the budget of lower- and the middle-income group. Construction of cement roads, overbridges and metro rail do not directly impact the common man,” he remarked.

Moreover, Thakre built the party organisation from the grassroot. He included a number of new-comers into the party-fold and gave them the feeling of ownership, said Kamnani, adding every worker campaigned with the spirit as if he was working for his own family member.

Congress’s alliance party, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) too worked wholeheartedly for Thakre. NCP MLC Prakash Gajbhiye had taken out rallies and undertook door-to-door campaign to ensure Congress’s victory.

Even Thakre’s opponents say he was the only active leader in the party raising voice against the ruling party for people’s cause from time to time during the last five years.

Most Congress workers and some BJP workers too privately believe the BJP workers were overconfident and hence the party had to pay the price.

This defeat has certainly shocked the rank and file of the BJP for it had to lose a constituency it had been retaining for the last 30 years. The party will have to learn lessons from its mistakes and correct its course for the forthcoming elections, quipped a BJP leader.

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