Nine Maharashtra ministers bite the dust

NCP-Congress reversal strikes at the heart of Devendra Fadnavis government

Published - October 25, 2019 01:49 am IST - Pune

Failed campaign: Rallies by Home Minister Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi could not help Minister for Rural Development and Women and Child Welfare Pankaja Munde win from Parli.

Failed campaign: Rallies by Home Minister Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi could not help Minister for Rural Development and Women and Child Welfare Pankaja Munde win from Parli.

The seemingly unstoppable Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Shiv Sena alliance received a reality check on Thursday.

At least nine ministers — two Cabinet ministers and seven Ministers of State — out of a total of 37 ministers, faced defeat in the Assembly elections. The most spectacular defeat was that of Minister for Rural Development and Women and Child Welfare, Pankaja Munde, who lost to her estranged cousin, the Nationalist Congress Party’s (NCP) Dhananjay Munde, by more than 30,000 votes.

Ms. Munde, riding on the legacy of her late father, senior BJP leader Gopinath Munde, lost in Parli, which witnessed an acrimonious pre-election campaign.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s election rallies in support of Ms. Munde in Parli came a cropper. Similarly, Ms. Munde’s ‘politics of tears’ following a bitter slanging match with her cousin over his allegedly ‘obscene remarks’ towards the end of the campaign failed to generate much public sympathy.

The other major upset was in Karjat-Jamkhed, a BJP stronghold since 1995, where Ram Shinde, Guardian Minister of Ahmednagar as well as Water Conservation Minister, was upstaged by the NCP’s youthful Rohit Pawar. Mr. Shinde lost by more than 43,000 votes.

Despite Mr. Shinde having the advantage of the BJP machinery, Mr. Pawar’s strong presence in times of crisis, notably the drought this summer and the water scarcity in this constituency, carried the day for the NCP.

The ruling party paid a heavy price for not heeding the threat of rebellion within the party ranks. In Maval, the BJP suffered a massive defeat after the NCP’s Sunil Shelke beat two-time MLA and Minister of State for Labour, Environment, Relief and Rehabilitation, Sanjay ‘Bala’ Bhegade, by 95,000 votes.

Mr. Shelke, a long-time BJP member, joined the NCP just ahead of the polls after the BJP denied him a ticket.

In Purandar (part of the Baramati Lok Sabha constituency) in Pune district, three-time Shiv Sena MLA Vijay Shivtare, the Minister of State for Water Resources, was trounced by the Congress’ Sanjay Jagtap. Mr. Shivtare, who has been vocal in his criticism of the Pawar family, earned the wrath of Baramati MLA Ajit Pawar.

In Jalna, the Sena’s Arjun Khotkar, Minister of State for Textile, Animal Husbandry, Dairy Development and Fisheries, suffered an upset at the hands of the Congress’ Kailas Gorantyal by nearly 20,000 votes. Mr. Khotkar, a four-time MLA from Jalna, had supported his adversary, the BJP’s Raosaheb Danve, in the Lok Sabha election. However, Mr. Khotkar’s defeat has cast aspersions on the fragile nature of the BJP-Sena ‘alliance’ in the district.

In the Morshi Assembly seat in Amravati, Agriculture Minister, Anil Bonde (BJP), lost to the Swabhimani Paksha’s Devendra Bhuyar. Mr. Bhuyar, a grassroots activist handpicked by Swabhimani Paksha chief Raju Shetti, was dragged out of his car (which was torched) and beaten by unidentified criminals on polling day on October 21.

Jaydutt Kshirsagar (Sena), Minister for Employment Guarantee and Horticulture, was trounced by his own nephew, the NCP’s Sandeep Kshirsagar, from Beed. The senior Mr. Kshirsagar had switched allegiances from the NCP to join the Sena in May after resigning as an MLA. He was promptly inducted into the Cabinet by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in June.

In the Aheri Assembly seat in Naxal-hit Gadchiroli district, the NCP’s Bhagwantrao Aatram defeated BJP’s Ambrish Atram, the Guardian Minister as well as Minister of State for Tribal Development, by nearly 15,000 votes.

BJP’s Madan Yerawar, Minister of State for Energry, Tourism, Food and Drugs Administration, lost to the Congress’ Anil ‘Balasaheb’ Mangulkar by a margin of 8,000 votes in Yavatmal.

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