The BJP failed to work its Hindutva magic in the bypoll to the Kolhapur North seat, with its nominee Satyajit Kadam losing by 18,750 votes to Congress candidate Jayashree Jadhav, who was supported by Maha Vikas Aghadi allies, the Shiv Sena and NCP. The bypoll was necessitated by the death of Congress legislator Chandrakant Jadhav who died of Covid last year. Jayashree Jadhav becomes the first woman legislator in Kolhapur district, renowned for its progressive ruler, Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj.
The Maha Vikas Aghadi partners claimed that Saturday’s victory had once again proved that the progressive thoughts of Chhatrapati Shivaji and social reformers Shahu Maharaj, Jyotiba Phule and Dr B R Ambedkar would prevail over the BJP’s politics of polarization.
As much as 61.19 per cent voter turnout was recorded in the election. Congress workers celebrated the victory in Kolhapur by dancing and throwing ‘gulal’ in the air. Jadhav thanked voters and said all three constituents of the MVA had worked together to clinch the victory. The win also proved that the Congress party’s decision to bank on its minister Satej Patil had worked. Patil alleged that the BJP had tried to distribute money to voters. “But we stopped them in their tracks and caught them red-handed,” he noted.
The ruling MVA partners are now saying the Kolhapur pattern must be implemented across the country to keep the BJP out of power in the coming general election. Despite the BJP’s attempt to expose internal contradictions and differences, the MVA allies put up a show of unity. The Shiv Sena was able to pacify its former legislator Rajesh Kshirsagar, who was unhappy with the party’s decision to relinquish its claim on Kolhapur North and extend support to the Congress.
The BJP, with its call to ban loudspeakers at ‘azaan’ and encourage the chanting of ‘Hanuman Chalisa’ made all-out efforts to lure voters with its Hindutva plank. It also did so by questioning the Shiv Sena’s Hindutva by joining hands with the NCP and the Congress to form the MVA government in Maharashtra.
However, the BJP failed to implement its poll strategy effectively. It launched its campaign with a resolve to expose the Maha Vikas Aghadi’s ‘flop show’ in the last two- and-a-half years and tried to project the slew of achievements by its government at the Centre and thereafter, zeroed in on its favourite Hindutva agenda, terming its estranged ally Shiv Sena ‘pseudo-secular’.
Further, the party had been banking on the charisma of Leader of the Opposition Devendra Fadnavis and his leadership. Fadnavis did not spare any opportunity to target the Shiv Sena, saying that “no matter how much anybody hates saffron, it is the breath of BJP and the party will carry forward the saffron legacy of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.”
However, Shiv Sena president and CM Uddhav Thackeray, who made a crucial virtual address in the poll campaign, took on the BJP, clarifying that though his party had parted ways with the BJP, it had not quit Hindutva. Thackeray had taunted that the BJP was not Hindutva and argued that “Shiv Sena had always been committed to ‘bhagva’ (saffron) and Hindutva, unlike the BJP, which had different names like the Bharatiya Jan Sangh and the Jan Sangh.”
Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut took a swipe at the BJP saying that the bypoll victory showed that gimmicks like playing ‘dirty politics’ over the issue of loudspeakers at mosques and reciting the Hanuman Chalisa did not work.
State Congress chief Nana Patole said it was a “victory for progressive thought”. “Efforts were made to hide the Centre’s failure on inflation, unemployment, poverty and the problems faced by small farmers and traders, by creating religious hatred. The victory has sent out a message from the birthplace of Shahu Maharaj (the late ruler of the princely state of Kolhapur who was known for his progressive policies),” Patole said.
State BJP chief Chandrakant Patil said, “The BJP has accepted the mandate. The party on its own got more than 77,000 votes and made it tough for the MVA. It was a closely contested fight. Winning and losing are part of elections and even former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had to face defeat once. In democracy, the decision of voters has to be accepted and we have accepted that decision.”
State NCP chief spokesperson Mahesh Tapase claimed voters from Kolhapur gave a befitting reply to BJP’s communal and religious politics.