Mumbai: Congress loss in Ahmednagar civic polls a blow to Thorat and Vikhe Patil
The Congress won only five seats (a loss of six seats compared to 2013), BSP four, independents two while one seat went to SP
Defeat of the Congress in the Ahmednagar municipal corporation elections in Maharashtra is perceived as a major blow to party stalwarts Balasaheb Thorat, a CWC member, and Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil. The ruling Shiv Sena emerged as the single largest party in the municipal corporation by winning 24 out of 68 seats, followed by NCP and BJP which won 18 and 14 seats,
respectively, in the results declared Monday.
The Congress won only five seats (a loss of six seats compared to 2013), BSP four, independents two while one seat went to SP. The Congress' performance is seen as a blow to Thorat and Vikhe Patil who, according to party insiders, are contenders for the post of chief minister, if the Congress forms government in Maharashtra in 2019.
According to sources, the failure of senior leaders to deliver has upset the Central leadership. "Results of the recently conducted Dhule and Ahmednagar civic body polls have seen a crushing defeat for the Congress and a growing influence of the BJP and AIMIM in the region", a Congress leader said.
"Ahmednagar saw a three-way fight among the Congress-NCP combine, the BJP and the Shiv Sena which is an indication of how alliances will shape up in Maharashtra the upcoming national and state elections", the leader said.
In the 74-member Dhule Municipal Corporation, the BJP bagged 50 seats, NCP 8, Congress 6 and Shiv Sena one. AIMIM won four seats, Samajwadi Party (SP) two seats and the Lok Sangram one seat. With an underwhelming performance by the Congress, the result of the Ahmednagar civic body is set to significantly impact the political future of four prominent Congress leaders from the region: Vikhe Patil, his son Sujay, former minister Balasaheb Thorat and his nephew Satyajit Tambe, who heads Maharashtra Youth Congress, sources said.
Ahmednagar has historically seen a tussle between factions led by Thorat and Vikhe Patil. While Thorat and Vikhe Patil toured the state together as part of the Congress' 'Jan Sangharsh Yatra', both were absent from election campaigning in the city. The NCP has been contesting from Ahmednagar from the last two decades. The Sharad Pawar-led party had fought both the assembly and Lok Sabha elections from the region. On possible reasons for Congress faring poorly in Ahmednagar, sources said, "seat-sharing negotiations with the NCP and the reluctance of Vikhe Patil's son Sujay and Thorat's nephew Satyajeet Tambe to build unity in the absence of a ticket seem to have hurt the Congress' fortunes".
Sujay Vikhe Patil had expressed his desire to contest the Ahmednagar Lok Sabha seat. However, Sharad Pawar is unlikely to hand over this seat to Vikhe Patil. Tambe had contested Ahmednagar assembly seat unsuccessfully in 2014 polls. "After he lost to NCP's Sangram Jagtap, Tambe has lost interest in the constituency and spent the voting day organising an event in Satara to mark Sonia Gandhi's birthday", sources said.
Before Ahmednagar, the Congress had suffered humiliating reverses in Sangli and Jalgaon polls.
The last civic body polls won by Congress was in Nanded municipal corporation, when the party swept 73 of 81 seats in a massive victory for party chief Ashok Chavan. This was a massive increase from the 2012 elections, where the tally was: Congress 41, Shiv Sena 14, AIMIM 11, NCP 10, independents 3 and BJP 2. Significantly, the Congress contested the Nanded polls independently. Despite this, the party managed to ensure that both the NCP and the AIMIM drew a blank in the polls.
Moreover, the Congress restricted the BJP to just 6 seats and the Sena to 1 seat.
Chavan's ability to arrest the growth of the AIMIM in Nanded was seen as the major reason for the party's victory. The AIMIM has steadily eaten into the Congress vote share across Maharashtra, posing a significant threat in Marathwada and Vidarbha regions.
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