Mumbai, Dec. Dec 5 : For the Congress, ally of the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi, it was double celebrations as the Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray-led government completed its one year in office one week ago.
Disproving all political predictions, after a gap of 58 years, the Congress's youth leader Abhijit Wanjarri, 47, bagged the prestigious Nagpur Division Graduates Constituency seat in the biennial elections, the results of which were declared on Friday.
The MVA partners - Shiv Sena-Nationalist Congress Party-Congress - spared no efforts in the polls and succeeded in defeating the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party nominee and Nagpur Mayor Sandeep Joshi.
In the biennial polls held on Dec. 1 for 6 seats, the MVA bagged 4, the BJP one and an Independent one in the hotly contested elections.
However, the Nagpur Division victory outshines all others as the Congress grabbed the BJP's crown - bang on the home-turf of its ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) - after 58 long years! An exhilarated Wanjarri gratefully acknowledged the efforts by the MVA partners, the support of the people and his own hard work that helped in completing the 'mission impossible'.
The seat was previously held by the former Jan Sangh and later the BJP with stalwarts like a close aide of the late Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the late Gangadharrao Fadnavis - the father of Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis - and four times (since 1989-2014) by current Union Minister Nitin Gadkari before he migrated to national politics.
There were several factors that spurred the tide against the BJP in the 2020 biennial polls - delayed by several months owing to the pandemic.
"The voters list was not updated for 42 years and did not have the pictures of the voters leading to possibility of mischief. I vigorously followed up with State Election Commission to make it up-to-date, with addition of around 70 per cent new graduates with their photos," Wanjarri told IANS.
He also campaigned tough, vowing to raise the issues faced by graduates unlike in the past when they were largely ignored, and hence the graduate voters were disenchanted with the polls, leading to a poor turnout.
This time, the caste factor worked in favour of Wanjarri who hails from the OBC category, compared with the past MLCs who were mostly Brahmins or upper castes.
"Owing to its policies, the BJP had already received a drubbing from the OBCs in the 2019 Assembly elections... the sentiments continued even for the MLC polls," said a NCP leader from Nagpur, preferring anonymity.
RSS circles hinted that the debacle was mainly on account of "BJP infighting among the pro-and-anti Fadnavis factions" - with the alleged role of some prominent defeated former state and union ministers adding fuel to warm the Congress' fires.
Shiv Sena leader from Vidarbha Kishore Tiwari was more forthcoming saying, "it's time for the RSS to rein in the current feuding state BJP leaders, or even a heavyweight like Gadkari could bite the dust in 2024".
Thumbing the nose at BJP which lampoons the MVA as "an autorickshaw" the Sena invoked Thackeray's observation that it was a "four-wheeler 'Rath' with people's faith", and said the results clearly show where the public confidence lies.
NCP President Sharad Pawar's comment was brief and sagely: "The picture has clearly changed... Congress has won the Nagpur seat. It's a reflection of the faith in the MVA government's performance." Congress state President and Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat termed it as "people's blessings for the good work done by the MVA".
Fadnavis put up a brave visage to concede that the "result is not as per our expectations", even as other leaders like BJP National Secretary Pankaja Munde jumped up to demand 'an introspection'.
"The 3-parties contested unitedly. We erred in judging their combined strength and we will have to work hard," Fadnavis said.
Besides, in the Aurangabad Division Graduates Constituency, NCP's Satish Chavan won trouncing BJP's Shirish Boralkar, while Pune Division Graduates Constituency was bagged by NCP's Arun Lad, beating BJP's Sangram Deshmukh.
Congress' Jayant Asgaonkar won the Pune Teachers Constituency seat, after 20 years, trouncing Independent Dattaraya Sawant, and in the Amravati Division Teachers' Constituency, an Independent Kiran Sarnaik beat Shiv Sena's Shrikant Deshpande - the sole seat it contested.
The consolation prize for BJP was Amrish Patel winning the Dhule-Nandurbar Local Bodies' Constituency, on anticipated lines.
In the 78-member Maharashtra Legislative Council, the BJP has 22 members, Shiv Sena 14, NCP 9, Congress 8, RSP, PWP and Lok Bharati Party 1 each, independents 4, plus the 6 seats for which elections are just completed and 12 nominees from the Governor's quota which await clearance.
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org)
-- The story has been published from a wire feed without any modifications to the text