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BJP wins big in Maharashtra council polls; Modi says poor back demonetisation

Beating all expectations, the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) emerged victorious on Monday with 851 seats in the Maharashtra municipal council polls conducted in 165 civic bodies.

The numbers caught political analysts by surprise as they were predicting a poor tally for the party on account of a combination of factors, including the state's battered cooperative banking sector post the demonetisation announcement and a series of farmer suicides.

Shiv Sena party workers celebrate their election victory on Monday. Firstpost/Sanjay Sawant

Shiv Sena party workers celebrate their election victory on Monday. Firstpost/Sanjay Sawant

This election was also a major litmus test for Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. The demonetisation exercise, announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 8 November, was expected to spell trouble for the party in the state since the announcement came at the time of poll campaign. This had triggered speculations that the party will suffer a major setback in the state. More importantly, there was an anti-BJP wave perceived to be among the voters after cooperative banks were hit hard as they were not permitted to accept deposits in old currencies or exchange new notes.

But Monday's results showed that the BJP's popularity has remained untouched by the seeming negative wave.

The prime minister also congratulated the BJP workers on Twitter.

A slew of factors including demonetisation, Maratha morcha, farmers suicide and drought impact figured prominently during the campaign, besides the local factors. This time, due to the change in rules, the municipal council president will be elected directly. This was the first phase of local body polls, which was held on 27 November. The second phase of the polls will be held on 14 December, the third phase on 18 December and the final phase on 8 January. There are a total of 212 local civic bodies in the state, including municipal councils and nagar panchayats.

Political analyst Abhay Deshpande told Firstpost that usually the chief minister does not campaign for the municipal council election, however, Fadnavis went on campaign trail as he was known for his clean image. Deshpande explained that this election, the local BJP workers had to prove that the party's hold in the state is not only due to the Modi wave but also due to their grassroot connections. The NCP, Congress' stand against demonetisation worked against them, he added.

After the date of the election was announcement, Shiv Sena and BJP agreed to an alliance, but their opponents Congress and NCP went separate ways and decided to taken on the BJP-Shiv Sena solo. Till 7.30 pm Monday, BJP won 51 seats for the post of municipal council president, Shiv Sena 24, Congress 21, NCP 19 and other Independent candidates won 25 seats.

After Modi's demonetisation announcement, the semi-urban areas of Maharashtra were hit due to the restrictions on district cooperative banks, which were a major movement in the state. A majority of the farmers have accounts in these cooperative banks.

In the last week of the election campaign, Fadnavis had highlighted the benefits of demonetisation and the Centre's fight against corruption and black money. Congress and the NCP, on the other hand, campaigned highlighting the hardships faced by the common man.

Till 7.30 pm Monday, results of 3,510 seats were declared in which BJP bagged 851 seats, Shiv Sena won 514 seats, NCP 338, Congress 643, MNS 12, BSP 5, Others – 708.

Meanwhile, Congress leader Narayan Rane bounced back in this election. In the Sindhudurg district,  Sawantwadi, Vengurla, Malvan and Devgad municipal council polls Congress emerged as the number one party. However, the Sindhudurg results were a big blow for Minister for State (Home) Deepak Kesarkar.

Updated Date: Nov 28, 2016 20:39 PM

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