Mumbai: The BJP on Wednesday won 22 of the 85 zilla parishad seats across half a dozen Maharashtra districts where bypolls where held, while the Congress bagged 36 of the 144 Panchayat Samiti seats which were on offer under their jurisdiction, according to results announced by the State Election Commission (SEC).
By-elections for 84 vacant seats across 6 Zilla Parishads (ZPs) – Dhule, Nandurbar, Akola, Washim, Nagpur, Palghar and also 141 seats in 37 Panchayat Samitis falling under the jurisdiction of these districts were held on Tuesday and the votes were counted on Wednesday.
Candidates in one ZP seat (total 85) and three Panchayat Samiti wards (total 144) were elected unopposed. Of the 85 seats on offer in six ZPs, the BJP won the highest 22, while the Congress, the NCP and the Shiv Sena – all constituents of the ruling MVA – bagged 19, 15 and 12 seats, respectively, (total 46). Independents secured four seats, the CPI (M) one and others won 12 seats, the SEC said.
In Panchayat Samiti bypolls, the Congress won the highest 36 of the 144 seats on offer followed by the BJP 33, the Shiv Sena 23 and the NCP 18 seats, the SEC results showed.
Independent candidates won seven, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena one and other registered parties bagged 26 Panchayat Samiti seats. The MVA (Maha Vikas Aghadi) allies won 73 of the 144 Panchayat Samiti seats.
As many as 367 candidates were in the fray for the ZP seats and 555 contestants for the Panchayat Samiti seats in the bypolls where the voter turnout was around 63 per cent. The by-elections were necessitated following a Supreme Court ruling on quota for OBCs in local bodies.
Maharashtra PWD minister Ashok Chavan of the Congress said the BJP has suffered a “major blow” in the ZP and Panchayat Samiti by-elections due to its “double standards” on Maratha reservation (in jobs and education) and political quota for OBCs (other backward classes).
“Whether it is Maratha reservation or OBC’s political reservation, the BJP has adopted double standards every time. The BJP did not take right decisions when its government at the Centre had the opportunity to play a decisive role in maintaining both these reservations,” Chavan said.
The minister, who heads the cabinet sub-committee on Maratha quota, said out of the 85 vacant seats in ZPs, the Congress had 13 members earlier, but it now has won 17 seats.
The Maha Vikas Aghadi allies won 46 ZP seats this time, as compared to 37 earlier, despite contesting the bypolls separately, he said. Chavan said on the other side, the BJP’s seat count dropped to 22 from 31 earlier, while the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi ‘s tally fell to eight from 12.
BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis said bypoll results show who is growing at the cost of the Shiv Sena and how the Uddhav Thackeray-led party’s base is going further down. The former Chief Minister claimed the BJP is growing steadily in the state.
The Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Assembly said, “The BJP’s base is steadily increasing and the base of others is declining. The Shiv Sena is going further down.” Fadnavis thanked voters for making the BJP, the “No. 1 party” in these Zilla Parishad and Panchayat Samiti by-elections. The BJP has won 25 per cent of the Zilla Parishad and Panchayat Samiti seats and Independents and smaller parties, too, have won 25 per cent of the seats.
The remaining 50 per cent includes the three MVA parties, he CM said.
State BJP president Chandrakant Patil said in these by-elections, the ruling MVA allies made full use of their power, but voters gave first preference to his party. “While in power in the state from 2014 to 2019, the BJP was the number one party in local body elections and despite being in the opposition now, the same trend continues,” Patil said. He said in the 2019 assembly elections, the BJP won an absolute majority by forming an alliance (with the Shiv Sena).
Despite that it has to sit in the opposition (after the Sena walked out of the saffron alliance), but the BJP still has the support of the people, the former minister said. Patil expressed confidence that the BJP will win the upcoming assembly bypolls in Deglur in Nanded district. The Supreme Court in March this year had read down the OBC quota in local bodies. Following the SC order, the OBC seats in Dhule, Nandurbar, Akola, Washim, Nagpur and Palghar ZPs and Panchayat Samitis falling under them got converted to general category seats.
As a result, seats in the 85 wards of these six ZPs and 144 wards in the Panchayat Samiti fell vacant. Candidate in one of these seats from Dhule ZP, nominees from two seats from Shirpur Panchayat Samiti in Dhule, and one from Akkalkuwa Panchayat Samiti were declared elected unopposed. Last month, the Maharashtra State Election Commission had declared byelections to six ZPs and the panchayat samitis under them for the seats that fell vacant after the SC order.
The SEC had earlier declared that these bypolls will be held on July 19, but they were postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. On September 9, the Supreme Court ruled that COVID-19 restrictions were not applicable for bypolls and directed the Maharashtra SEC to announce fresh dates.