Miraj, Jalgaon civic bodies in BJP's kitty

Aug 04, 2018, 07:56 IST | Dharmendra Jore

Ruling party dethrones Congress-NCP and Shiv Sena in two politically important cities

Miraj, Jalgaon civic bodies in BJP's kitty
NCP's state president Jayant Patil and Devendra Fadnavis, Chief Minister of Maharashtra

At a time when the state is seeing unrest over various issues, the BJP government has got a shot in the arm with two politically important cities Sangli-Miraj and Jalgaon (Khandesh) voting in its favour in the municipal elections. In fact, the BJP has never been in power there before.

The victory should be a huge boost for the party even as the Opposition is raking up issues such as reservation for the Maratha, Dhangar and Muslim communities. The political atmosphere is charged with the Maratha protests that had turned violent last month. The Opposition, and BJP's ruling partner Shiv Sena, have been expecting the tide to turn.

But, a Maratha-dominated Sangli-Miraj toppled the Congress-NCP combine, and an OBC-dominated Jalgaon sent the Sena's local front packing. Sangli-Miraj turned out to be a close call with the BJP taking a lead of six seats (41 seats against Congress-NCP, 35, and others 2; a total 78 seats). The defeat should hurt NCP's state president Jayant Patil the most as he is from Sangli (Islampur) and had made the contest a prestige issue.

In 2014, the BJP had staged a coup in Sangli by winning the Lok Sabha seat for the first time and then won a significant number of MLAs in the city and the district's other segments. The party has taken yet another important body under its wing ahead of the 2019 polls.

The victories are a huge gain for Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who for the first time, could not campaign in local body elections because of the Maratha unrest. Of the 25 corporations that went to the polls since 2014, the BJP has won 16 (including two where it shares power). It had lost Mumbai by a whisker to the Sena. The number of its corporators has increased five times ever since it came to power in the state.

In the CM's absence, revenue minister Chandrakant Patil and Cooperation Minister Subhash Deshmukh handled Sangli-Miraj. In Jalgaon, the CM's blue-eyed boy Girish Mahajan, who heads the medical education department, emerged hero. Sena's Suresh Jain whose local front had been ruling the city for over 40 years was reduced to 15 seats by the BJP, which got 57 of the total 75 seats. Others won 3. Mahajan also outsmarted his local senior and competition, Eknath Khadse, by taking full charge.

Celebrating the win, Fadnavis thanked the voters for reposing faith in his government's development agenda. "This victory shows what the people want. We will continue to work for their betterment," he said.

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