Mumbai: The BJP today scored a big win in the Sangli municipal elections by defeating the Congress-NCP alliance and also swept the Jalgaon civic body in Maharashtra where it trounced the Shiv Sena.
The BJP's victory in the twin civic polls, held on August 1, comes in the midst of the ongoing agitation by the Maratha community for reservation in government jobs and education. The win is being seen as a relief to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, under fire over handling of the stir.
The BJP, an ally of the Shiv Sena in the state and at the Centre, won 57 of the 75 seats in the Jalgaon Municipal Corporation (JMC), according to result declared by the State Election Commission (SEC).
Local strongman and Shiv Sena leader Suresh Jain's Khandesh Vikas Agadhi (KVA), which ruled the civic body for several years, won only 13 seats.
The KVA, a local outfit which contested the election on the Shiv Sena symbol this time, had 36 seats in the JMC.
The All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) bagged three seats, while Independents won two seats.
The NCP, which had 11 corporators in the civic body, drew a blank. The Congress in Jalgaon failed to open its account for the second consecutive time.
Jalgaon is the home turf of BJP heavyweights Eknath Khadse and Girish Mahajan. Mahajan, the Water Resources Minister in the BJP-led government, had led the election campaign.
Ahead of the polls, there was reportedly some resentment within the BJP ranks as several supporters of Jain, a former state minister, were given party tickets, but this did not appear to have dented the saffron outfit's electoral chances.
In 2013, the KVA had won 36 seats followed by the BJP (15), the MNS (12), the NCP (11) and Independent (1).
The BJP also posted an impressive victory in the Sangli-Miraj-Kupwad Municipal Corporation, winning 41 seats in the 78-member House and ousting the Congress from power.
The Congress, the current ruling party in the civic body in the western Maharashtra, won only 20 seats, while its ally, the NCP, got 15.
The Swabhimani Aaghadi, a local outfit, and an Independent bagged one seat each.
The BJP did not have a single corporator in the civic body.
The Sangli result is being seen as a severe jolt to the Congress-NCP, which formed an alliance for the first time in the civic elections in the city.
State NCP president Jayant Patil and Congress leader Vishwajit Kadam along with other local leaders of the two parties had campaigned extensively for the alliance.
Fadnavis had cancelled his public meetings in Sangli in the backdrop of the Maratha quota stir, which had turned violent at several places, including Mumbai.
Sangli, an important city in Maharashtra's sugar belt, is considered a stronghold of the Congress-NCP combine. It is the home city of NCP's Patil and Congress' Kadam, who is also an MLA.
Late Chief Minister Vasantdada Patil, a Congress stalwart, hailed from Sangli.
The Congress and the Sharad Pawar-led NCP together ruled the state for 15 years (1999-2014), but they fought against each other in the Sangli civic polls. However, this time they formed a pre-poll alliance.
Over the years, the BJP had been making concerted efforts to expand its base in Sangli district. In 2014, the BJP bagged the Sangli Lok Sabha seat, while in the Assembly polls (held in October 2014), the party won four seats in the district.
The NCP bagged two assembly seats in the district, while the Shiv Sena and the Congress won one each.
In the 2013 civic polls in Sangli, the Congress won 41 seats, the NCP 19, the MNS 1, Independents and others the rest.
Talking to reporters, Fadnavis said despite the Maratha quota stir, people in Jalgaon and Sangli voted for the BJP overwhelmingly.
"People supported the BJP since they are aware our government is making sincere efforts to ensure reservation in jobs and education (for the Marathas). People know only we can fulfil their demands," Fadnavis said.
He said the results have proved people trust the BJP.
"The demand for reservation is not new. It is only we who are sincerely pursuing it," the chief minister added.
In a veiled warning to the Shiv Sena, Fadnavis said: "In Sangli, the Congress and the NCP contested together, but people trusted the BJP. This proves beyond doubt what is in the people's mind."
The Shiv Sena had earlier announced it will fight all future polls alone.
NCP spokesman Nawab Malik alleged that the BJP won by using "money and muscle power" while Congress leader Anant Gadgil claimed that the BJP's victory was due to "unethical use" of its position in power.