Beyond its expectations, the Nationalist Congress Party has reclaimed its stronghold of western Maharashtra in the Assembly elections. The party lost three Lok Sabha seats there earlier this year.
Now it won 24 out of the 70 setats in this region, comprising Maharashtra’s most politically significant districts: Pune, Ahmednagar, Kolhapur, Sangli, Satara and Solapur. The NCP tally is thus just two less than what the party got last time despite its contesting fewer seats. Its ally, the Congress, won 14 seats.
Fortunately for the NCP, two individuals who posed a threat to the party in the region, did not cause any embarrassment. Sadashivrao Mandlik, an NCP rebel, and Raju Shetti of the Swabhimani Paksha caused the party to lose sleep after the recent Lok Sabha elections, unexpectedly winning both seats in Kolhapur.
The candidates put up by them in the Assembly elections under the banner of the Republican Left Democratic Front (RLDF) were expected to repeat the success. However, that did not happen.
An aide of Mr. Shetti told The Hindu that the Swabhimani Paksha learnt the “divided we fall” lesson the hard way. “There was a dispute between Mr. Shetti and Mr. Mandlik over allocation of seats,” he said. “We lost the Kagal and Radhanagari seats [to the NCP] because of this disunity.”
However, the NCP was not the only party to make significant gains in western Maharashtra. The BJP-Shiv Sena alliance, which won just two Assembly seats in Sangli and Kolhapur districts in 2004, increased its tally to seven there. “The BJP won Sangli, Miraj and Ichalkaranji, all of which were affected by communal riots in September, apart from retaining Jat,” said Mr. Shetti’s aide. “The Shiv Sena, too, won three seats without doing any work in the region. It was all because of the riots.”