Nanded: The Congress on Thursday bagged the prestigious Nanded-Waghala City Municipal Corporation (NWCMC), bagging a staggering 67 of the 73 seats in the 81-seat body and crushing the opposition.
The Congress was expected to win a few more seats as it led in another five seats in the NWCMC, a stronghold of Maharashtra party chief Ashok Chavan. Elections to the civic body were held on Wednesday.
The Congress not only retained the civic body but also hugely improved its tally compared to 2012 when it secured 41 seats, proving a major morale-booster for the party reeling under a saffron onslaught.
"The return journey for the Congress in Maharashtra has begun in Nanded. The Congress wipes out BJP," an elated Chavan tweeted. He said the Congress tally could cross 70.
He said the people of Nanded had "reposed full faith" in the developmental agenda of the Congress and deserved credit for its victory.
The opposition led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) bagged four seats while its ruling ally in the centre and the state, Shiv Sena, got just a single seats. An independent candidate also got one seat.
Another prominent contender, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), was overwhelmed by the Congress juggernaut and finally lost the race in this famed Sikh pilgrimage centre.
Sitting on 11 seats in the outgoing house, the AIMIM claimed to have the support of the minority and Dalit voters. This had worried the Congress.
Similarly, the Congress` ally, the Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), failed to secure a single seat, a State Election Commission (SEC) official said.
In 2012, the Congress bagged 41 seats, Shiv Sena 14, AIMIM 11, NCP 10, BJP two while independents notched three seats.
The 2017 elections outcome proved a huge setback to the Sena, NCP and AIMIM though some BJP leaders claimed the party which held two seats earlier (2012) had doubled its performance by capturing four seats.
Another NDA ally, Maharashtra Swabhiman Party President Narayan Rane, minced no words in criticizing the BJP-Sena saying they should do "serious introspection and soul-searching" in the wake of the Nanded result.
"The Chief Minister (Devendra Fadnavis) and Shiv Sena President (Uddhav Thackeray) personally held so many election rallies. And this is what they got? Their leadership must carry out a serious introspection and soul-searching."
Congress activists celebrated 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.