The BJP has swept the two Municipal elections held on July 31 in Maharashtra. In a historic victory, the BJP overwhelmed the Congress-NCP alliance in the Sangli-Miraj-Kupwad Municipal Corporation (SMKMC) elections which is traditionally seen as a Congress stronghold winning 41 of the 78-member House. Congress has been in power in this corporation for the past 20 years but this time around it was unable to stop the BJP despite forming an alliance with the Sharad Pawar led NCP. BJP also registered an easy victory in Jalgaon Municipal Corporation (JMC) winning 57 out of 75 seats where it had entered an alliance with the Shiv Sena, however, the BJP went all alone in the Sangli elections and still registered a historic victory over the Congress-NCP combine.
Satara, Sangli and Kolhapur are considered to be stronghold for senior Congress and NCP leaders like Sharad Pawar, late Yashvantrao Chavan and Vasantdada Patil. This is the sugar-belt of Maharashtra where sugar processing units were set up during the politically influential co-operative movement. As a result of which senior Congress leaders have enjoyed unchallenged supremacy in this region for the past two decades. However, it seems that after a landslide victory in the Sangli polls, the BJP has demolished this stronghold. The spectacular show put up by the BJP, therefore, becomes all the more impressive in view of the considerable influence exercised by the Congress leaders in this municipality.
The impressive victory for the BJP on its own in Jalgaon municipal corporation elections after a long gap of 36 years also has strong political ramifications. It comes as a severe jolt for former Maharashtra MLA and local strongman Suresh Jain who was in charge of Shiv Sena for Jalgaon polls against the BJP. The influential politician who has been known for switching party loyalty several times was expected to have considerable influence on Jalgaon polls. However, it seems that he was not able to do much in the face of BJP’s increasing popularity. It also comes as a huge confidence-boosting victory for the BJP for it was able to secure this victory in absence of the local man, Eknath Khadse. Khadse, a Maharashtra BJP veteran who has handled major portfolios in the state cabinet over the years chose to stay away from poll activities on his home turf. He had been a front-runner for chief minister’s post after BJP won state elections in 2014. Later on, Fadnavis inducted him in his cabinet but Khadse had to resign due to corruption charges. It was being said that there was some kind of rift between Fadnavis and Khadse. It was believed that Khadse had been unhappy over the fact that the state party unit did not defend him against the corruption allegations leveled against him. However, winning the elections without his support has only increased Fadnavis’s stature in Maharashtra and his standing is also going to increase within the party.
The ongoing Maratha stir over reservation was being seen as a bottleneck for Fadnavis who had come under fire from the opponents. However, with this historic victory under the leadership of the Maharashtra chief minister, it has become clear that he has defeated his opponents and critics both within and outside the party.