The Congress on Thursday bagged the prestigious Nanded-Waghala City Municipal Corporation (NWCMC), bagging 43 of the 46 seats in the 81-seat body for which results have been declared and crushing the opposition.
The Congress also built up strong leads in at least another 20 seats in the NWCMC, a stronghold of Maharashtra party chief Ashok Chavan and one of the last surviving bastions of the party in the state. Elections to the civic body were held on Wednesday.
The Congress not only retained the civic body but also improved its tally compared to 2012 when it secured 41 seats, proving to be a morale-booster for the party reeling under a saffron onslaught.
The opposition led by the main rivals, the Bharatiya Janata Party and Shiv Sena, was virtually wiped out. The two parties notched just one seat each and one seat was bagged by an independent even as the vote count continued.
Another prominent contender, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), which was earlier leading in one seat, was overtaken by the Congress in this famed Sikh pilgrimage centre.
Sitting on 10 seats in the outgoing house, the AIMIM claimed to have the support of the minority and Dalit voters. This had worried the Congress.
But the Congress’ ally, the Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), failed to secure any leads, a State Election Commission (SEC) official said.
In 2012, the Congress bagged 41 seats, Shiv Sena 14, AIMIM and NCP 10 each, BJP two while independents and others notched three seats.
“The return journey for the Congress in Maharashtra has begun in Nanded. The Congress wipes out BJP,” an elated Chavan tweeted.
He said the people of Nanded had “reposed full faith” in the developmental agenda of the Congress and deserved full credit for the party’s victory.
Congress activists erupted in noisy celebrations in Nanded, Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra.
Both the Congress and the BJP had made it a battle of prestige to wrest control of the civic body in the historical town renowned for the Hazoor Sahib Gurudwara, one of the five holy Sikh Takhts and the resting place of Guru Gobind Singh.
For the first time in Maharashtra, the SEC deployed VVPAT (voter verified paper audit trail) voting machines in 31 polling centres in Ward No 2 as a pilot project in the elections which recorded a 65 per cent turnout.