When a party ends up losing its stronghold its a sign of how the electorate is dissatisfied with the functioning of the party. The liberal fraternity’s so-called Chanakya Sharad Pawar and his party NCP faced a stinging defeat in its stronghold of Pandharpur-Mangalwedha assembly constituency as the BJP, despite a joint fight by the NCP-SS-INC, managed to win the seat which is a sign of Maha Vikas Aghadi’s massive unpopularity.
Every political analyst worth his salt would tell you the growing unpopularity of the Maha Vikas Aghadi as the Uddhav Thackeray led government hops from one blunder to another, but even the most eminent psephologists would have been shocked by the BJP’s victory in Pandharpur-Mangalwedha assembly constituency – a NCP stronghold.
BJP’s Samadhan Autade defeated the joint MVA candidate Bhagirath Bhalke by 3,733 votes. The by-election was necessitated post the death of NCP legislator Bharat Bhalke. The NCP fielded his son, Bhagirath hoping to ride the sympathy wave. It is pertinent to note that it was a high decibel election with every MVA leader who mattered campaigned for Bhagirath Bhalke but to little avail.
Leader of Opposition, Devendra Fadnavis who almost single handedly has increased the BJP’s footprint in Maharashtra since 2014, said, “The people of Pandharpur have shown a mirror to the inefficient and corrupt governance of the MVA… All three parties entered the arena, fought as ‘saam, daam, danda, bhed‘, misused administration and money, but despite all this people here voted for the BJP.”
Fadnavis who had held seven rallies for the crucial by-polls added, “I had appealed to people, you elect our candidate and at the right time I will topple this state government. Even now, I am saying the same thing. But only at the right time. Right now, our battle is against Covid.”
The NCP as expected tried to deflect the blame as it cited the lack of unity within the MVA as a reason for its stinging defeat.
“The bypoll constituency included the Pandharpur taluka and Mangalwedha taluka. We weren’t able to bring about effective communication between the two teams, as a result of which our candidate Bhagirath Bhalke lost out by a small margin,” said NCP President Jayant Patil.
The Indian Express quoted an anonymous NCP leader as saying, “The use of money by the BJP could have been countered by the sympathy factor coupled with votes of the Dalits and Muslims, who usually vote against the BJP. The party heavily relied on the Maratha and Dhangar communities and roped in leaders accordingly. But it seems to have completely ignored the Dalit and Muslim communities.”
The publication also quoted a Shiv Sena leader who claimed that while multiple local factors were involved in the election, there should have been a show of MVA unity in the campaigning.
The Shiv Sena leader, said, “The NCP leaders campaigned very hard and gave a tough fight but the BJP’s arithmetic seems to have worked in the polls. Also, a big rally should have been organised to show the unity of the MVA as the party has sizeable present there.”
While the NCP and SS blame the lack of unity within the MVA for their defeat, one must not forget that senior NCP leaders and ministers Ajit Pawar, Jayant Patil, Dhananjay Munde, Datta Bharane, NCP legislator Rohit Pawar all held rallies for Bhalke.
Bhalke as also ably supported by Shiv Sena minister Gulabrao Patil, State Congress President Nana Patole and other Congress leaders who also campaigned for him.
Despite the battery of ministers and senior leaders campaigning for Bhalke, he still lost which further highlights how the people of Maharashtra are tired of the Maha Vikas Aghadi. As one senior leader from the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi once infamously quipped, “Akela Devendra Kya Karlega?” – it is safe to say that Fadnavis has answered this question quite convincingly.