Maharashtra: BJP vs BJP Causes BJP a Heartburn In This Pune Seat

Maharashtra: BJP vs BJP Causes BJP a Heartburn In This Pune Seat

by Varun Singh - Thursday, March 2, 2023 05:26 PM IST
Maharashtra: BJP vs BJP Causes BJP a Heartburn In This Pune SeatKasba Peth BJP candidate (L) and senior Maharashtra BJP leader, Chandrakant Patil
  • What led to the BJP's loss in a seat which it has held for 28 years?

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which is ruling the state of Maharashtra along with Shiv Sena suffered a major setback. The party lost the Kasba Peth assembly seat in Pune in a bypoll, after holding it for 28 years.

The Kasba Peth seat in Pune has been with the BJP for over two and half decade and Girish Bapat, till being elevated as the Lok Sabha MP, was the 'undisputed king' of this seat.

After Bapat became an MP, it was occupied by Mukta Tilak, another Brahmin face, hailing from the Tilak family.

Her untimely death led to the seat falling vacant.

Results for this seat were announced on Thursday evening, where the BJP candidate Hemant Rasane lost by a margin of over 11,000 votes.

So what led to the BJP's loss in a seat which it last lost to Congress in a by-poll way back in 1991 and since then has held it even during the worst of its times?

There are multiple reasons for this loss.

BJP lost the first battle because when it was unable to counter the narrative set by a certain segment—that the BJP had taken the Brahmin community for granted.

It is believed that Devendra Fadnavis was of the view that someone from the Tilak family should be given the candidature, which is the norm for most by-polls, where the candidate has passed away mid term.

The BJP itself in the Chinchwad seat which went to polls along with Kasba Peth, gave the seat to Ashwini Jagtap, the wife of Laxman Jagtap. Jagtap's death caused elections in Chinchwad.

However, it is believed that Chandrakant Dada Patil was of the view that Rasane be given the seat, and apparently managed to convince the high command. Fadnavis didn't challenge the decision and for the last five days of the campaigning, even stationed himself in Pune. The reason being that Rasane was seen as a good candidate and a hardcore RSS swayamsevak.

Rasane happens to belong to the OBC community and the Kasba Peth seat has been represented by the Brahmin candidates for three decades now. When Rasane's candidature was announced, banners came up against the BJP that it had taken the Brahmins for granted.

The BJP tried to douse the fire, but failed to completely put it off.

The second biggest reason was Rasane failing to get a good lead in his own area. Rasane was a corporator and it is said that even in his seats where he managed to get good votes, the votes were insufficient to give him a good lead against the Hemraj Dhangekar.

It is believed that the sidelining of the Tilak family impacted the votes in the majority of the areas of this seat.

Another thing that didn't work well for the BJP was bringing in an ailing Bapat to campaign for Rasane. It is said that most voters of the BJP from the Brahmin community didn't appreciate this  move.

The anger amongst party workers and voters of the BJP was visible on social media since morning as the votes were being counted and the BJP was seen trailing.

Many openly blamed the party high command for not respecting the local sentiments. "Certain permutations and combinations that have been in existence for decades shouldn't be played with. Or else we see such disasters," said a BJP worker from Pune.

Many voters of the BJP especially, from the Brahmin community, are of the opinion that their unquestioned support to the BJP was being taken for granted and hence this outcome in Kasba Peth gave a message to the party.

Though losing this seat won't impact the BJP and Shiv Sena government in the state, it will surely impact the party's narrative.

A jolt for the BJP has acted like a booster for the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA). The MVA has learnt a good lesson from this one victory.

The lesson is—united we stand, divided we fall.

In Kasba Peth, apart from the Congress candidate, it is said that even Ajit Pawar of the NCP worked his best to get the seat to the MVA.

In Chinchwad, the NCP lost to the BJP. The MVA's defeat here is being attributed to an independent candidate, Rahul Kalate.

Kalate was from the Uddhav Thackeray camp and managed to get a good share of vote as an Independent. Had he not contested the NCP candidate Vitthal Kate would have snatched this seat from the BJP too.

One thing that most BJP leaders are saying behind closed doors is that this defeat was perhaps needed. This jolt, the leaders say, will act as a catalyst to awaken the central leadership, the state leaders and also the party workers who had gone into complacency after the routing of MVA government and formation of BJP-Shiv Sena government in the state.

The Kasba Peth defeat will make many leaders in the BJP go back to the drawing table, to come up with a strategy to tackle the united MVA and also to keep its voter base happy. Which it couldn't in the by-polls. 

Varun Singh, is a Mumbai-based journalist and tracks politics and other important news from the western region of the country. Varun has spent close to 18 years in journalism.
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