Mumbai, Dec 16: The ruling BJP has emerged as the net gainer in the first two rounds of civic polls across Maharashtra as it made inroads into semi-urban and rural areas, giving leverage to the party to counter the opposition onslaught over the demonetisation.
As the counting of votes for the second phase of polls concluded last evening, BJP's tally in two rounds went up to 974 seats in municipal council and nagar panchayats, dealing a grim blow to Congress and NCP which had for long held sway in rural and interior parts of the state.
The decision to hold direct elections to the post of municipal council presidents brought handsome gains to the BJP which secured 56 positions. In the first phase, BJP put up an impressive show winning 893 council and nagar panchayat seats while it finished slightly behind the NCP with 81 seats in the second round.
The NCP, which won 615 seats in the first phase, bettered its tally over the rival in the next round with 93 seats while the Congress, which won 727 seats in the first phase bagged 45 seats.
Shiv Sena, the bickering partner in the ruling alliace, pocketed 529 and 23 seats respectively in two rounds. The polling to elect 324 councillors and 14 municipal council presidents in Latur and Pune districts was held on Wednesday.
The Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena drew a blank in all seats it contested. The outcome is also seen as a shot in the arm for Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis who led the campaign from the front.
According to political observers, BJP's success is more prominent in the Vidarbha region, once a stronghold of Congress. Fadnavis hails from Nagpur and that could be one of the reasons for BJP's sterling performance in the region, they said.
Difficulties caused by demonetisation appear not to have gone against the BJP because people still feel it will yield positive results like eradication of black money at the end of the day, they said.
Hailing the results, BJP state president Raosaheb Danve said, "Like in the first phase, the results of the second phase also showed that people have displayed their faith in PM Narendra Modi's demonetisation decision."
"People have endorsed the performance of Modi and Fadnavis governments," he said, adding, the results show that BJP continues to be the "number one" party in Maharashtra.