The BJP has won civic elections in Latur, the district in Maharashtra that has been wrecked by five years of consecutive drought. The state's ruling party beat the Congress by a whisker, winning 36 seats to the rival party's 33, but it counts as huge win. The Congress had never lost the 70-member corporation since Independence. In the last election five years ago, the Congress had won 49 seats. The BJP had won zero.
It's another victory for Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who led the campaign. "If the BJP is voted to power," Mr Fadnavis said, the party would "ensure Latur becomes drought-free". Latur voted on Wednesday.
In February, the 46-year-old Chief Minister was credited with the BJP's resounding victory in local elections in regions like Amravati and Pune. In Mumbai, the BJP was a close runner-up to the Shiv Sena in its best result ever for the vastly-rich corporation in the financial capital. In rural areas where the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party have traditionally been strong the ruling party has made major inroads in local elections.
Earlier this month, the Chief Minister told voters in Latur that farmers who could not use electric pumps because of a power shortage would not have to pay electricity bills.
"In order to provide better electricity, we will provide 561 crore for Marathwada region. Previously, the governments used to provide around Rs 300-400 crore for the purpose," he also said and pledged more water tankers, better electricity and education for children in rural areas.
Last year, trains carrying water pulled into Latur every day for nearly four months as an intervention after a severe crisis in the area due to the monsoon failing for the fifth year.
The loss today severely dents the Congress party, already reeling from its losses in a state that it ruled for 10 years till 2014. In last time's civic elections in Latur the Nationalist Congress Party, that had held 49 seats, has won one seat today.
The win today consolidates the BJP's position as Maharashtra's number one party, up from number four only a few years ago.
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