Mumbai: The Congress, led by its national president Rahul Gandhi stares at its political obliviation in Maharashtra, after suffering its worst ever defeat in the state, once considered its stronghold.
The Congress could win just one, out of 48 seats, while the combined total of the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) alliance could wrest only six seats along with allies in all, compared to the 41 that the Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The only seat the Congress won was of Suresh Dhanorkar from Chandrapur, who became the giant killer as he defeated Hansraj Ahir, union minister of state for home.
Two former chief ministers of the Congress, including Ashok Chavan and Sushilkumar Shinde lost the polls.
The Lok Sabha election results have virtually wiped out the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party in Maharashtra,
leaving political pundits stunned as the Congress lost all seats but one.
Ironically, the only saving face for the Congress, led by Ashok Chavan in the state was its candidate Dhanorkar, a former Shiv Sena legislator, who quit the party before Lok Sabha polls and joined the Congress, fought on its ticket and won the Chandrapur seat.
Dhanorkar is a leader of the Kunbi (farmer Marathas) community and the Chandrapur is a Kunbi dominated constituency, while his opponent Ahir is from the Gavali community.
It was for the first time a political party gave a ticket to a Kunbi, the community, along with Muslim and Dalit possibly voted in favour of Dhanorkar. In Chandrapur, the DMK (Dalit-Muslim-Kunbi) factor worked against four-times BJP MP and minister Ahir and led to his defeat.
The wipeout is a dramatic shift from 2009 when Maharashtra had contributed a major chunk of 25 MPs to the Congress-led United Progressives Alliance (UPA) government.
In 2014 however, the opposition Congress-NCP could win a mere six seats in 2014 polls amidst the “Modi wave.” The Congress came down from two in 2014 to one in 2019, all others receiving a severe drubbing.
The NCP, that was nearly written off, managed to win four seats of its own – the Maratha centric seats of Baramati, Shirur, Satara and Raigad.
The NCP succeeded in adding one more seat from Amravati as the party had supported independent candidate Navneet Kaur Rana, who won the seat defeating outgoing Shiv Sena MP Anand Adsul.
The saffron BJP-Sena combine inflicted massive wounds on heavyweights from the Congress and the NCP including Shinde from Solapur and Chavan from Nanded, Milind Deora from Mumbai South, Eknath Gaikwad from Mumbai South-Central and Raju Shetti of Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana.
In Nanded, the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) candidate Yashpal Bhinge secured over 1.60 lakh votes, that resulted in Chavan’s defeat by a margin of around 50,000 votes. While accepting the result, Chavan blamed the VBA for his defeat and division of secular votes.
I admit the wipe-out of the grand old party was unexpected, even with people generally talking of being fed up with dynasty rule.
The shocking results for the Congress were from Mumbai city and suburbs, with political pundits expecting the Congress-NCP to retain the seats like in 2009 polls.
I had not really seen the pro-Narendra Modi wave on ground, except in pockets of suburbs like Borivali, Kandivali in the Mumbai North constituency, some parts of Mulund and other pockets.
It was predicted that Congress has favourable situation in Mumbai South as industrialist Mukesh Ambani had openly endorsed candidature of Milind Deora in there.
What then prompted people to go all out and reject the Congress-NCP candidates, despite being disappointed with the Modi government over demonetisation and GST issues?
Now, the NCP chief will have to introspect what went wrong, as with all the efforts of his party could pull off only four seats and the Congress received a drubbing.
The only leader who is responsible for the debacle of Congress is its state chief Ashok Chavan who would possibly be replaced in upcoming days as the party cannot take the risk of facing the Maharashtra assembly polls scheduled in October this year under his leadership.
Chavan meanwhile has taken responsibility of his party’s debacle, saying they raised people’s issues in the run-up to the polls but failed to succeed.
To a query on whether he will continue as the state Congress chief, Chavan told reporters in his constituency that the party central leadership would take a call on his future role.
“I will present my views to the party leadership. I accept responsibility for our defeat. We relentlessly raised people’s issues and took on the government, but it is sad that we did not get success,” he said.
Chavan appealed to party workers to not to get disheartened and rather start preparations for the state Assembly polls due later this year.
In Maharashtra, which sends 48 members to the Lok Sabha, the BJP emerged victorious in 23 seats while the Sena won 18 seats.