Mumbai, Apr 10 (PTI) After losing power in rural areas of Latur district, the Congress is facing an uphill task to maintain its hold on urban belt in the home turf of party stalwart late Vilasrao Deshmukh.
In the Latur Zilla Parishad (ZP) polls held in February, the BJP breached the Congress citadel and the two parties will square up again in the Latur Municipal Corporation (LMC) and two bother civic bodies going to the polls on April 19.
The saffron outfit had won a comfortable majority in the 58-member Zilla Parishad of Latur, a Congress stronghold for the past several decades.
A ZP governs rural areas of a district, while a municipal corporation administers urban belt.
Now with the election to the 70-member LMC coming up, the focus is on Vilasrao’s son Amit, a two-time Congress MLA from Latur City constituency. A repeat of the ZP result would put a question mark on Amit’s political fate in the 2019 assembly polls, according to political observers.
Besides Latur, municipal corporations of Chandrapur and Parbhani will also go to the polls on April 19. As many as 1,284 candidates are in fray for the 201 seats in the three civic bodies – 460 in Chandrapur, 406 in Latur and 418 in Parbhani.
A total of 7,93,621 voters are eligible to exercise their franchise in the three corporations, where results will be out on April 21.
In 2012, Congress had bagged 49 of the 70 seats in LMC while NCP won 13. Shiv Sena captured 6, while two seats went to smaller parties.
In Parbhani, of the 65 seats, the Congress had won 23 five years ago, NCP 30, Shiv Sena 8, BJP 2 and others 2.
In Chandrapur, the home district of BJP leader and Maharashtra finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar, Congress won 26 of the 66 seats, while BJP was a close second with 18. NCP bagged 4, Shiv Sena 5 and MNS 1.
Vinayak Bajpayi, a BJP leader from Latur who recently switched over to Shiv Sena, gave a number of reasons for Congress’ defeat in Zilla Parishad polls.
He said anti-incumbency and “exodus” of Congress workers to the BJP in the run to the poll led to the result.
When contacted Amit Deshmukh told PTI the party’s loss in the ZP polls was a thing of the past and Congress will do well in the civic polls.
“Both elections (ZP and municipal corporation) are different. In assembly segments held by the Congress, the party did well in getting ZP members elected. But, BJP scored in talukas like Nilanga, Ahmedpur and Chakur.” State Congress President Ashok Chavan and former chief minister Prithvraj Chavan, among other leaders, are camping in Latur and canvassing for the party candidates.
“We are getting good response for our candidates as they have a mass base and connect with voters. Other parties like BJP, Sena, NCP did not have candidates for the 70 seats and had to take in Congress rebels,” Amit said.
In Chandrapur, even though Congress emerged as the single largest party after the 2012 polls, it ruled the civic body for 2.5 years till a section of the corporators defected to the BJP. Now, BJP rules the civic body.
Vjay Waddetiwar, Congress deputy leader in the assembly, said his party is putting up a united fight against the BJP.
In Parbhani, Congress leader Suresh Varpudkar said his party and NCP are contesting the elections separately but they will join hands post-poll to complete pending projects.
“BJP’s success in the ZP and municipal corporation polls in February will not have any impact now,” he said.
BJP spokesman Madhav Bhandari said his party is expected to do well in Latur, Chandrapur and Parbhani.
Its only a month since the BJP won most of the ZPs and municipal corporations. We will do well in these civic bodies also,” he added.
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.