The 2019 general elections saw candidates from the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) contest from all 48 seats in Maharashtra. This includes journalist-turned-politician Imtiaz Jajeel who contested on an All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) ticket from Aurangabad. And though Jaleel was the only one to actually win a seat, the vote shares of VBA candidates have sent electoral shockwaves through many constituencies, reminding older parties that they cannot ignore the voice of subaltern voters any more.
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VBA was founded by Prakash Ambedkar on March 20, 2018 and registered on March 15, 2019, just before the general elections. Apart from Asauddin Owaisi’s AIMIM, VBA also garnered support from over 100 small political parties and social organisations. Talks of a pre-poll alliance with the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) fell through earlier in 2019, with the older parties labelling VBA as the B-team of the BJP… and this is what cost the Cong-NCP alliance dearly. The Congress won one seat and the NCP just four.
VBA upsets the Cong-NCP applecart
In many constituencies that have hitherto been considered stronghold of the, VBA candidates won a significant number of votes, often placing third and denting the vote share of INC-NCP candidates. This is true in constituencies like Buldhana, Gadhchiroli-Chimur, Nanded and Parbhani. Additionally, the VBA turned it into a legitimate three cornered fight in Sangli, which is a major Congress bastion and the constituency of another former chief minister Vasantdada Patil! Even in Akola and Solapur, the two seats from where Prakash Ambedkar contested, the Congress would have benefitted from a pre-poll alliance with the VBA. Let us take a closer look at the numbers here.
Buldhana: In Buldhana, VBA candidate Siraskar Baliram Bhagwan won 1,72,627 or 15.41 percent of the votes, coming in third behind Shiv Sena’s JP Ganpatrao (5,21,977) and and NCP’s Dr. Rajendra Shingane (3,88,690). VBA’s votes thus, exceeded the margin of victory.
Gadhchiroli-Chimur: VBA candidate Dr. Rameshkumar Gajbe won 1,11,468 or 9.75 percent of the votes coming in third in this constituency. Once again this was higher than the margin of victory with BJP’s Ashok Nete winning 5,29,968 votes and INC’s Dr. Namdeo Usendi getting 4,42,442 votes.
Nanded: In Nanded, INC’s star candidate and former Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan lost by a narrow margin of just over 40,000 votes to Prataprao patil Chilkhalikar. While Chavan won 4,46,658 votes, Chilkhalikar won 4,84,806 votes. VBA’s YN Bhinge won 1,66,196 votes that could have made all the difference. Had the Congress entered into a pre-poll alliance with the VBA, Chavan would not have suffered such a humiliating defeat on his home turf.
Parbhani: In Parbhani, the VBA candidate Alamgir Mohammed Khan came in third with 1,49,946 votes, a number that is far greater than the winning margin that was just over 42,000 votes! While Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Jadhav won 5,38,941 votes, NCP’s Rakesh Vitekar wasn’t far behind with 4,96,742 votes.
Sangli: VBA’s Gopichand Padalkar won an impressive 3,00,234 votes here snapping close at the heels of Swabhimani Paksha’s VP Patil who won 3,44,643. Though BJP’s Sanajaykaka Patil emerged victorious with 5,08,995 votes, the close contest between the candidates who placed second and third made it a three cornered contest.
In Akola, combined votes of VBA chief Prakash Ambedkar (2,78,848) and INC’s HB Patel (2,54,370) would have given BJP’s Sanjay Dhotre (5,54,444) tougher competition. In Solapur, Ambedkar ended up playing spoilsport for another former chief minister Sushil Kumar Shinde. INC’s Shinde who won 3,66,377 votes, lost to Siddheshway Shivacharya who won 5,24,985 votes. The victory margin of 1,58,608 was under the 1,70,007 votes won by Ambedkar!
VBA also performed admirably in Beed, Hatkanangle, Osmanabad, Maval, Amravati, Chandrapur, Hingoli, Latur and Yavatmal-Washim.
But it wasn’t just far flung semi urban or rural areas where the VBA made its mark. VBA candidates also won an impressive number of votes in Mumbai. Sanjay Bhonsle won 63,412 votes coming in third in Mumbai South Central. Niharika Khondalay won 68,239 votes bagging the third spot in Mumbai North East.
Given that the VBA had decided to contest all 288 seats in the upcoming assembly elections in Maharashtra, perhaps it is time that secular parties start taking the party seriously and forge alliances to improve their electoral prospects.