Maharashtra civic polls: Devendra Fadnavis silences critics with big win

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The local body polls were first real test of the CM.

Mumbai: Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has risen as the numero uno in state politics. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has won eight out of 10 civic bodies that went to polls and has taken a quantum leap in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Council elections. Thursday’s results has made it clear that the party has gained ascendancy in rural Maharashtra, which was a bastion of opposition parties Congress and Nationalist Congress Party.

These elections were Mr Fadnavis’ first real test since he became Chief Minister in 2014. Back then, his appointment was attributed to his being the blue-eyed boy of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a hardcore RSS swayamsevak.

His detractors also said Mr Fadnavis got the top job in the state despite lacking any ministerial experience. Therefore, Mr Fadnavis had to prove his mettle in these elections to shut up his opponents within and outside the party.

Mr Fadnavis, the party’s only face for local body elections, covered the whole state in 15 days, addressing six to seven rallies per day.

He visited every district and city that was going to the polls. In all, he addressed 60 rallies, which is second highest in number after NCP’s Dhananjay Munde’s record.

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Out of these 60, Mr Fadnavis addressed 12 rallies in Mumbai alone. Using transparency as a main campaign plank, Mr Fadnavis also made  controversial decisions by allowing history-sheeters and goons in his party at Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad and Nashik.

The Chief Minister was heavily criticised for opening the door to many controversial NCP leaders. But now all this is water under the bridge.

These results came a day after Mr Fadnavis completed 25 years in public life. In 1992, he took oath in the Nagpur Municipal Council as a corporator at the tender age of 21. In 1997, Mr Fadnavis when became the mayor of Nagpur he was the youngest official to hold such a post and in just two years he became MLA from Nagpur city.

Lotus wilts in Munde’s bastion
“The lotus (Bharatiya Janata Party’s election symbol) may have bloomed all over the state but in Parli village, Beed district it wilted. The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) defeated the BJP at Parli, which has been a bastion of first Gopinath Munde and now his daughter and Cabinet minister in the state Pankaja Munde. Accepting full responsibility for the defeat, a visibly upset Ms Munde tendered her resignation from the rural development ministry portfolio. Ms Munde tweeted: “We got good response in Beed district but in Parali tehsil people have voted against us. I am resigning from my rural development ministry accepting the defeat.” However, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis did not accept it. “I have not received her resignation yet. In such a situation, where you are winning everywhere else, it is not a big issue that we lost in few places. Therefore, no question arises of accepting her resignation even if it comes to me,” the CM said.

Uddhav’s challenges far from over
Despite being the number one party in Mumbai, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray’s leadership has been challenged by the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) giant strides in the in Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) polls. Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray will have to pass another test — that of retaining the BMC, as the BJP is busy wooing independent candidates to prove its majority.

After the death of Sena supremo Bal Thackeray in 2012, Mr Thackeray gained complete control of the party. Questions were raised as to Mr Thackeray leadership, as he is softer than his father. However, Mr Thackeray managed to gain success in the Assembly polls with 63 MLAs, as BJP had snapped ties at the last minute. Despite the Modi wave, Mr Thackeray managed to get his MLAs elected, highlighting his leadership skills. The leader has recently expressed that he felt cheated and preferred going it alone for the BMC polls.

PCMPC shuns Pawar  
The Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) got its biggest blow at the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) elections on Thursday. The PCMC has always been Mr Pawar’s nephew and former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar’s stronghold but the Bharatiya Janta Party, literally, demolished his long-built bastion.  On Thursday, the BJP won 77 out of the total 128 seats while the NCP won only 36 seats in PCMC polls. In the Pune municipal corporation, out of the total 162 seats, the BJP won 98 and the NCP got only 38.  The 2017 civic polls were crucial for Mr Pawar, especially after the BJP had received mammoth support from voters in the 2014 general and assembly elections. The BJP had won all assembly seats from Pune in 2014. It had also won four out of the seven seats in PCMC. For the past two years, the BJP successfully poached NCP strongmen and close confidante of Mr Pawar. The BJP managed to bring two affiliated MLAs and almost 20 corporators to its fold.

Nepotism helped to some extent
Nepotism seems to have helped the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress win some seats in the local body elections, but in a few there were instances where the party concerned suffered a blow. Two important candidates, Kamini Shewale, wife of Shiv Sena Member of Parliament, Rahul Shewale, lost, as did Vinod Shelar, brother of Mumbai BJP president Ashish Shelar. In the last few years, elections in many cases have become almost a family-run business. While BJP gave tickets to Neel Somaiya, son of MP Kirit Somaiya and Akash Purohit, son of MLA Raj Purohit, Sena also was not far behind. It also gave tickets to wives and sons of leaders. An example of the same is Samadhan Sarvankar, son of Sena MLA Sada Sarvankar.  A senior BJP leader on condition of anonymity said, “We were not only suffering from imports being given importance in the party but also nepotism, which marred our chances of getting ticket. In certain areas the workers had decided to defeat such candidates.”

 

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