Maharashtra: BJP, Congress claim win in Phase 2 of gram panchayat elections

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Mumbai: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Maharashtra has claimed victory in the second phase of the gram panchayat elections, the results of which were declared on Tuesday.

Of the 3,666 gram panchayats that went to the polls on Monday, the BJP has claimed victory in 1,311. According to figures released by the BJP’s state office, the Congress won 312 gram panchayats, followed by the Nationalist Congress Party or NCP (297) and Shiv Sena (295).

The state election commission informally said that it did not have party-wise results because gram panchayat polls are not contested on party symbols.

Maharashtra’s election commissioner J.S. Saharia said 4,119 gram panchayats had been scheduled to go to polls in the second phase but elections were held for 3,666 bodies; that was because some gram panchayats were declared elected unopposed. These 3,666 gram panchayats are spread over 18 districts of the state and the elections saw a turnout of nearly 81%.

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The opposition Congress too has claimed victory in these polls. Citing data for 3,941 gram panchayats, including those which were decided without a contest, the Congress claimed victory in 1,014. As per the Congress claim, the BJP won 641 gram panchayats, the NCP 442 and Shiv Sena 211.

Maharashtra state Congress president Ashok Chavan accused the ruling BJP of “faking election results to hide the utter failure of the BJP-led governments at the centre and in state, especially in bringing relief to the rural population hit by demonetization and the farm crisis”.

Claims and counter-claims of victory marked the first phase of gram panchayat elections held on 7 October as well when 3,884 gram panchayats spread over 18 districts went to the polls. While the BJP said it had won nearly 1,800 gram panchayats and posts of sarpanch (elected gram panchayat head) in the direct elections, the Congress and the NCP as well as BJP ally Shiv Sena contested the BJP claim. In the first phase, the Congress claimed victory in 1,063 gram panchayats and gave the BJP less than 800 village bodies.

A senior state election commission official, who did not want to be named, said such claims and counter-claims were only to be expected since the gram panchayat elections had not been contested on party symbols. “All parties can claim success and there is no stopping that. We have the results of all 3,666 gram panchayats but there are no party-wise results obviously,” the official said.

Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, when asked about the BJP’s claim of victory in both phases of gram panchayat polls, insisted that the party had emerged the clear winner.

“In order to prove our victory and celebrate it, the BJP is holding a sarpanch convention next month, which all our triumphant sarpanches will attend. That will demonstrate the scale of our victory,” Fadnavis said.

On Tuesday evening, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a tweet, congratulated the state BJP for the gram panchayat poll victory.

State BJP president Raosaheb Danve attributed the “spectacular BJP victory” to the policies of the Narendra Modi and Devendra Fadnavis governments. Describing the results as a rural mandate for the BJP, Danve said the BJP agenda of governance and development was coming good for the party.

The Congress’s Chavan, however, said the rural population had elected “a majority of people of Congress ideology” and rejected the BJP. He said the Congress would soon come out with authentic figures to back its claim.