Pandharpur bypoll: NCP blames lack of strategy, absence of MVA unity for defeat

NCP sources on Monday said lack of strategy and absence of unity in the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) alliance led to the party’s defeat to the BJP in the Pandharpur assembly bypoll.

The BJP’s Samadhan Autade won the seat by a thin margin of 3,733 votes, defeating the NCP’s Bhagirath Bhalke in the Solapur district constituency. As per official figures, Autade secured 1,09,450 votes, while the Bhalke got 1,05,717 votes.

The bypoll was necessitated following the death of NCP legislator Bharat Bhalke due to Covid-19 in November last year.

The sources said the party initially was in favour of fielding late Bhalke’s wife instead of his son, Bhagirath. “Had his wife been fielded, the sympathy factor would have played out completely in her favour, more than for Bhagirath,” said an NCP leader.

The leader added that there was some opposition to Bhagirath’s candidature from a section of local leaders but he was still fielded from the seat. “Secondly, all the anti-NCP people were mobilised by the BJP for the bypoll but it seems that the party did not have a counter-strategy that went against us.”

In the 2019 assembly polls, the BJP’s Sudhakar Paricharak got 76,426 votes, while the NCP’s Bharat Bhalke secured 89,787 votes, leading to the party’s victory by 13,361 votes.

However, Autade, who had contested the 2014 assembly poll as a Shiv Sena candidate, got 54,124 votes as an Independent candidate.

Another NCP leader said the party did not pay attention to the other backwards classes, Dalits and Muslims to counter the BJP. “The use of money by the BJP could have been countered by the sympathy factor coupled with votes of the Dalits and Muslims, who usually vote against the BJP. The party heavily relied on the Maratha and Dhangar communities and roped in leaders accordingly. But it seems to have completely ignored the Dalit and Muslim communities,” said the leader, adding that the OBC, Muslim and Dalit leaders should have been involved in the campaigning.

Senior NCP leaders and ministers Ajit Pawar, Jayant Patil, Dhananjay Munde, Datta Bharane, NCP legislator Rohit Pawar and others held rallies for Bhalke.

Shiv Sena minister Gulabrao Patil, State Congress President Nana Patole and other Congress leaders also campaigned for him.

A Shiv Sena leader said multiple local factors were involved in the election but there should have been a show of MVA unity in the campaigning.

“The NCP leaders campaigned very hard and gave a tough fight but the BJP’s arithmetic seems to have worked in the polls. Also, a big rally should have been organised to show the unity of the MVA as the party has sizeable present there,” said the leader.

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