There is unease in the Maharashtra Congress over the BJP’s win in the Ahmednagar mayoral election with NCP support, and there is a feeling that the “pattern” could be replicated at the state level. With state unit chief Ashok Chavan out of the country, the Congress has, however, not yet reacted officially to the development.
BJP’s Babasaheb Wakale was elected Ahmednagar mayor after polling 37 votes despite the party having just 14 seats in the 68-member civic body as 18 NCP corporators, four from the Bahujan Samaj Party and one Independent voted for him. The Shiv Sena is the largest party in the civic body with 24 seats.
The five Congress corporators in the civic body had abstained from voting.
A Congress office bearer, on condition of anonymity, said the NCP’s move in the Ahmednagar Municipal Corporation had the blessings of the party’s state leadership. “Unless the party (NCP) takes action against its local leaders, its credibility will be in doubt,” the Congress office bearer said.
Explaining the intricacies of Ahmednagar district politics, he said, “The Shiv Sena’s five time MLA from Ahmednagar city, Anil Rathod, was defeated in 2014 by Sangram Jagtap of the NCP. Sangram is son-in-law of Shivaji Kardile who is BJP MLA from neighbouring Rahuri Assembly seat.”
He added, “Allowing the Shiv Sena to have its own mayor would strengthen the party as well as Anil Rathod and this the NCP did not want. Rathod is the local rival of Jagtap, Shivaji Kardile and BJP’s Ahmednagar MP Dilip Gandhi,” the Congress office bearer said.
By supporting the BJP in the mayoral election, the NCP’s plan is to secure its assembly seat in Ahmednagar city, the Congress leader claimed.
He further pointed out that the NCP’s observer in Ahmednagar for the mayoral election, Ankush Kakade, had publicly stated that the party strategy for the mayor poll would be decided by the local district leadership.
“Even though the NCP has said it has sent show cause notices to the 18 corporators, the latter are saying no such notice has been received. The pattern could be replicated at the state level too,” the office bearer observed. The Congress has, so far, maintained that since the NCP has assured action (against its corporators), it had no option but to wait and watch.
“We will take a call on this issue after Ashok Chavan returns,” he added.
The Congress and the NCP are in an advanced stage as far as Lok Sabha and Assembly seat-sharing talks are concerned.
According to party functionaries, a decision on only eight out of 48 LS seats, including Pune and Ahmedanagar, is pending.
The NCP’s state unit chief Jayant Patil, meanwhile, has said that the decision of the local leaders to align with the BJP was unacceptable.
“We had fought the civic polls in alliance with the Congress. A show cause notice has been served to all the corporators. A decision on action against them will be taken after the response is received,” Patil said, adding that the “Ahmednagar pattern” to attain power will be crushed. Patil attributed this move to local politics and also claimed that the BJP’s attempts to create confusion about the NCP’s ideology would not succeed.
Meanwhile, in another development, senior Congress leader Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, who hails from Ahmednagar, has invited President Ram Nath Kovind and Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to release a book on his father Balasaheb Vikhe Patil.
The book release function is scheduled for January 7. A Congress leader, on condition of anonymity, said party workers in Ahmednagar felt that inviting party chief Rahul Gandhi or the chief ministers of the states where the party won recent Assembly polls would have been better to build a momentum for the party in the run-up to general polls scheduled next year.
Vikhe Patil’s office, meanwhile, clarified that the book release function would have leaders from all parties in attendance.