Bypolls to throw open new permutations and combinations

Bypolls to throw open new permutations and combinations

Nationalist Congress Party workers celebrate their party's success in Bhandara–Gondiya Loksabha byelections, outside their party office, in Bhandara district of Maharashtra on Thursday. PTI

In a battle of prestige, the BJP managed to retain the Palghar seat by defeating the Shiv Sena, its ruling alliance partner.

On the other hand, the NCP managed to win the Bhandara Gondiya seat in Vidarbha region, defeating the BJP.

At the end of the day, the BJP's relations with the Shiv Sena – its oldest ally — is strained further and has reached a point of no return or any possible rapprochement.

But, the government in Maharashtra is intact and there is no fallout on its longevity.

"The ball is in Shiv Sena's court," said Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. 

He was reacting to Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray's comments on the alliance.

Uddhav had said, "The BJP doesn't need friends anymore. We shall go solo in future elections". 

One thing that is clear is that it has enhanced the possibility of the Congress and the Sharad Pawar-led NCP coming out with a proper pre-poll alliance ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

They had ruled the state for 15 years from 1999-2014 before they split ahead of the 2014 Maharashtra Legislative Assembly elections.

In Bhandara Gondiya, NCP's Madhukar Kukde defeated BJP's Hemant Patle by a margin of nearly 37,000 votes.

The elections here were necessitated after sitting MP Nana Patole of the BJP resigned after raising a banner of revolt against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Palghar (ST) polls were a bone of contention between the BJP and Shiv Sena —  as the latter poached Shrinivas Vanaga, the son late BJP MP Chintaman Vanaga  —  because of whose death the bypolls were necessitated.

In fact, a rattled BJP roped in Congressman Rajendra Gavit, a former minister of state for tribal development in the erstwhile Congress-NCP democratic front government, made him a member of the BJP and gave him a nomination.

Gavit won by a margin of over 29,000 votes despite a sympathy wave in favour of Vanaga.

Former MP Baliram Jadhav of the Hitendra Thakur-led Bahujan Vikas Aghadi came close at number three followed by the CMP at number four and the Congress at number five, who had fielded five-time Dahanu MP Damu Shingda.

From the Palghar polls, it is clear is that if there would have been a coalition against the BJP, the latter could have been defeated easily —  an experiment that has largely succeeded elsewhere.

For the Congress, the larger message is to take regional parties into confidence — state by state — and forge a grand alliance - if they want to take on the combination of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah in 2019.