How did BJP lose its five-time Pune bastion Kasba Peth?

The BJP was in power in the Kasba Peth constituency for 28 years. Girish Bapat, the current BJP MP from Pune, represented the seat five times till 2019.

Published: 03rd March 2023 12:20 PM  |   Last Updated: 03rd March 2023 04:14 PM   |  A+A-

BJP Flags (Photo | PTI)

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Express News Service

MUMBAI: The BJP failed to retain Kasba Peth Assembly seat, its stronghold in Maharashtra, as Congress candidate Ravindra Dhangekar defeated the saffron party nominee Hemant Rasane.

The Kasba Peth constituency was the saffron party's stronghold for 28 years. Girish Bapat, the current BJP MP from Pune, had represented the seat five times till 2019.

Why did the BJP lose? 

Two Assembly segments in Pune district - Kasba Peth and Chinchwad - voted on February 26 in bypolls necessitated due to the death of sitting BJP MLAs Mukta Tilak and Laxman Jagtap, respectively.

The main takeaway from Kasba and Chinchwad results remains that if the Maha Vikas Aghadi remains united, they can give a formidable fight to BJP.

The Kasba by-elections is an example where Congress candidate Ravindra Dhanghekar despite all the odds bagged a major victory against the BJP's Hemant Rasane by 11,200 votes. Dhangekar got 52.98% votes in this election. Congress won this seat after 30 years. 

Meanwhile, in Chinchwad, BJP candidate Ashwini Jagtap, wife of late MLA Laxman Jagtap won against the NCP candidate Vitthal alias Nana Kate of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) by 32,845 votes. Shiv Sena rebel Rahul Kalate supported by Shiv Sena’s alliance partner Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi led by Prakash Ambedkar bagged 40,507 votes.

If the MVA had succeeded in pacifying Shiv Sena (UBT) rebel Kalate, a victory in the Chinchwad by-elections may have been possible.

In Kasba Peth by-elections, at the beginning of the campaign itself, BJP had lost the perception battle against the Congress candidate Ravindra Dhangekar.

The saffron party fielded a non-Brahmin candidate Hemant Rasane annoying a significant number of Brahmin voters who claimed that the party had denied a ticket to Medha Kulkarni, a Brahmin in Kothrud, to humour state BJP erstwhile president Chandrakant Patil. 

The party had also denied a ticket to the kin of the deceased sitting BJP MLA Mukta Tilak and the son of BJP Lok Sabha MP Girish Bapat. 

Pulled the wrong religion card

The BJP tried to give a religious colour to the Kasba Peth by-elections by criticizing NCP chief Sharad Pawar who was allegedly appealing to Muslim voters from Dubai and Middle-East countries to come and vote decisively against the BJP candidate, but this religious polarization campaign backfired.

Kasba has 17 per cent Muslim votes. In 2009, Dhangekar as an MNS candidate lost against Girish Bapat because he could not get majority votes in Muslim-dominated areas while Bapat bagged the majority of votes.

The BJP put all its machinery and resources into Kasba Peth. Around a dozen ministers from the BJP and the Eknath Shinde faction of the Shiv Sena had camped in Kasba Peth in the last few days before voting. However, the BJP leaders' forceful tactics seem to have annoyed the local voters who preferred to go with a mild and down-to-earth person like the Congress' Ravindra Dhangekar.

In Kasba, the MVA chose its campaigners carefully. Controversial persons were not allowed to campaign. Besides, even former ministers of Congress helped Dhangekar pull resources and muster a victory.

Dhangekar got a decent lead in all wards of Kasba Peth. He even got a good number of votes from the RSS-BJP-dominated upper caste voters' localities as well.

ALSO READ | Congress inroads in BJP bastions in Maharashtra by-elections

Local BJP leaders had no say? 

The absence of a collective leadership of the BJP could have cost the party dearly. 

The Maharashtra BJP's power is reportedly concentrated in the hands of deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, giving local party leaders very little space of their own. 

On the other hand, all leaders of the MVA were given the space that helped all communities consolidate support for Dhangekar. 

BJP leaders were also caught on camera allegedly distributing money before the elections. These videos went viral on social media damaging the party's image.

Maharashtra is too important to lose

The BJP and Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde will now have to change their strategy for the Maharashtra polls as the state holds a total of 48 Lok Sabha members which is the highest after Uttar Pradesh.

They have to also think about their image which has taken a dent following the toppling of the Uddhav Thackeray government.

The BJP formed the government in Maharashtra along with the Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena hoping to get Shiv Sainik and Marathi Manoos votes. But the Kasba Peth by-election result shows that Shinde didn't succeed. Shinde has shortcomings that the BJP will understand sooner or later.

Meanwhile, talking to PTI, senior journalist and author Prakash Akolkar said Uddhav Thackeray will have to rethink on his alliance with Prakash Ambedkar, head of VBA, who openly supported Rahul Kalate, the independent candidate in Chinchwad, when Thackeray was persuading Kalate to withdraw from the race.


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