Spoils of five-point duel

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By SATISH NANDGAONKAR, JAIDEEP HARDIKAR AND SAMYABRATA RAY GOSWAMI
  • Published 20.10.14
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BJP supporters celebrate in Thane on Sunday. (PTI)

Mumbai, Oct. 19: The BJP today emerged as the largest party in Maharashtra with 122 seats and inched close towards forming the next government.

With partner Rashtriya Samaj Paksha winning from one constituency, the alliance has 123 seats, 22 short of majority in the 288-seat Assembly.

If a post-poll coalition is struck, the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena, which has won 63 seats, will find it tough to demand the chief minister’s post.

The BJP has nearly doubled its vote share from 14 per cent in 2009 to 27 per cent and far outdone its previous best tally of 65 in the state.

With Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah notching a combined tally of 44 campaign rallies, the BJP has inflicted heavy losses on the Congress, shaving 40 seats off its 2009 score of 82. The NCP’s is down to 41 from 62.

However, the five-cornered battle appeared to cushion the blow of anti-incumbency, with the Congress and the NCP holding their own in many of their strongholds. In the summer general election, the BJP and the Sena — then allies — had together bagged 42 of the state’s 48 Lok Sabha seats, reducing the Congress to two seats and the NCP to four.

For the second time in six months, the BJP has burst the sons-of-the-soil bubble of Raj Thackeray’s MNS, the fifth player in the pentagonal contest.

Raj’s party has won just one seat, down from 13 five years ago, and been outperformed by lower-profile parties like the Bahujan Vikas Aghadi (3 seats), Peasants and Workers Party (3) and Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (2).

Seven Independents have won, and the CPM, Samajwadi Party and the Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh have won one seat each.

Vidarbha, where statehood was an underlying issue, handed the BJP its biggest gains. The party bagged 44 of the region’s 62 seats, sweeping eastern Vidarbha.

The Congress won 10 seats, while the Shiv Sena and the NCP bagged four and one seat, respectively. The Independents bagged three.

The BJP’s second biggest haul came from the Congress-NCP turf of western Maharashtra, where the unrest among farmers and the Dhangar community, coupled with Modi’s charisma, earned it 24 of the 70 seats.

In the Lok Sabha polls, the BJP had led from 17 Assembly segments in the region. The Congress and the NCP largely managed to hold their own, losing one seat each to win 10 and 19 seats. The Shiv Sena too bagged 13 seats — a gain of seven.

The BJP improved its Marathwada tally from 3 to 15 of the 36 seats on offer. The Congress finished at nine, a loss of 10 from its 2009 haul, while the NCP fell from 11 to 8. The Shiv Sena gained a few seats to end up at 12.

In Mumbai, the BJP outdid the Shiv Sena, winning 15 seats compared with the former ally’s 14. The Congress, helped by “spoiler” MNS in 2009, lost heavily and was reduced to five seats from 17. The NCP lost all the three seats it had won in 2009, and the MNS too drew a blank.

Coastal Konkan saw a resurgent Shiv Sena walk away with 14 seats compared with the five it had won in 2009, while the BJP retained its tally of 10 out of the 39 seats. The NCP won eight, while the Congress just one.

In its stronghold of north Maharashtra, the BJP bagged 14 of the 35 seats, while the Sena and the Congress won seven each. The NCP bagged five.

Prithviraj Chavan, chief minister of the ousted Congress-NCP government, was perhaps the only tall leader from his party to win.

Attacked by his party colleagues after his frank comments to The Telegraph, which touched on his responses to the corruption charges against three former Congress chief ministers, Chavan won by 16,000 votes from Karad South.

During the interview, Chavan had acknowledged that apart from “anti-incumbency”, the other big problem dogging the Congress was “corruption”.

Chavan, who has the cleanest image among Maharashtra chief ministers in a long time, received little support from the party organisation in these elections. This was the former MP’s first stab at an Assembly election. As chief minister he was a member of the state’s upper House.

With a tally of 42, the Congress has done better than it expected, party sources said.

“A dipstick survey we had conducted had indicated that we might get around 16 seats. Nobody would admit to that now, though. We have done better than we thought and that is a huge morale booster,” a senior Congress leader said.

He said the party’s failure to “control corruption among our alliance members at the Centre and the state” cost it.

“The perception that we did not act against the NCP’s corrupt leaders, or even the tainted leaders from our own party, went against us,” he said.

“But one thing is for sure — if we had not broken the alliance with the NCP, our tally would have been lower.”

Among prominent Congress leaders who lost are Narayan Rane, Harshvardhan Patil, Kripa Shankar Singh, Satej Patil, and former President Pratibha Patil’s son Rajendra Shekhawat.

The NCP’s bigwig losers include Ganesh Naik, Nawab Malik, Sachin Ahir, Suresh Dhas and Dhananjay Munde. The Shiv Sena’s Subhash Desai and MNS candidates Bala Nandgaonkar, Nitin Sardesai and Pravin Darekar too bit the dust.