Maharashtra bypolls: BJP wins Palghar, but loses Gondia-Bhandara
While Shiv Sena puts up tough fight in Palghar, united Cong-NCP show BJP the door in Gondia-Bhandara
The ruling BJP survived a Shiv Sena onslaught in the Palghar Lok Sabha by-poll, but succumbed to the sustained and united efforts of the Congress and NCP in Gondia-Bhandara.
While the win is succour for the failing fortunes of the Congress-NCP combine, which has promised to continue its alliance in the general and assembly elections, the Palghar experience has given Sena a new confidence. It finished second in its maiden attempt, ringing a warning bell for the BJP, which has been rallying to get the ruling partner to join hands in a pre-poll alliance in future. Sena maintained that it was the beginning of its solo fight and it would never join the BJP in its electoral endeavours.
The two constituencies sprang some shockers for Sena's longtime friend-turned-enemy. The Sena took the wind out of BJP's sails by taking the fight straight into the BJP's citadel in Palghar despite losing to Rajendra Gavit, a Congress turncoat who was pitted against Sena's Shrinivas Wanga, son of the late BJP MP Chinamani Wanga (whose death necessitated the by-poll). The Sena had got Shrinivas to defect ahead of the nominations.
BJP's defeat in its fiefdom of eastern Vidarbha indicated that the opposition unity could not only withstand the ruler's might but also help it walk away with a resounding victory. Gondia-Bhandara was earlier held by the BJP, which was rocked by sitting member Nana Patole's resignation last year. Patole joined the Congress and teamed up with senior NCP leader Prafulla Patel, who he had defeated in the 2014 election on a BJP ticket.
Palghar turned out to be a match between the two right-wing outfits, leaving others far behind, except for a Hitendra Thakur-led local outfit Bahujan Vikas Aghadi which finished third with 2.22 lakh votes. While NCP increased its tally by one, the Congress finished a poor fifth in Palghar. Even CPM garnered more with 71,000 votes.
Ball in Sena's court: CM
Reacting to the results and Sena's posturing, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said the BJP was never opposed to an alliance with its long-time partner. "We wish such fights are not repeated in future. The Sena has to decide because a pact cannot happen unilaterally. Recently, we shared seats in the council polls," he told a media conference.
Fadnavis said the tussle caused more harm to the Sena than the BJP. "We are ready to talk. In fact, we have talked about an alliance in the past, and we, being together for 25 years, know how to take things forward. I feel that the Sena will not go with anyone else because we are bound by the same ideology." On the Gondia-Bhandara defeat, the CM said the seat would be won in 2019. "The constituency has been facing scarcity for long and in such circumstances any government would face the wrath of the voters. We will win next time," he said. Fadnavis endorsed Thackeray's complaint against EVMs and demanded that the election commission take note.
Thackeray slams EC
Even as rumours suggested that Sena president Udhav Thackeray would pull the plug on BJP, he has blamed the defeat on the alleged partisan election machinery. He said the way the poll system had been working for the BJP across the country was a serious threat to democracy.
When asked if he would withdraw support to the BJP government, he avoided the question, saying, "The issue I raised today is very important for the country. There has come a time where all parties are wondering if they should contest the polls at all. I think all parties should now file a case against the Election Commission for 'corrupt' practices. Remember, the same commission had taken away [the late] Balasaheb Thackeray's voting rights, accusing him of corrupt practices?" he said.
But, he reiterated that the Sena would fight elections on its own in future. "The Palghar contest is the beginning of the no-alliance policy," he said.
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