Nanded (Maharashtra): In a significant morale-booster, the Congress Monday swept elections to the Nanded Municipal Corporation, bagging 41 out of the total 81 seats, officials said here.
Nanded is the home town of scam-tainted former chief minister Ashok Chavan, who was the architect behind the party's unexpected showing in the hotly contested elections held Sunday, helping it to retain the civic body with an improved tally. The party had 37 seats and support of some independents in outgoing body.
In another significant development, the Hyderabad-based All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, which had contested 25 seats, managed to win 13 of them. An Independent candidate also was declared a winner.
However, the Nationalist Congress Party - allied with the Congress at the state and central level - decided to go alone in the elections and bagged 10 seats.
On the other hand, the Shiv Sena secured 14, while of its allies, the Bharatiya Janata Party managed to bag only two seats and the Republican Party of India failed to open its account.
A beaming and relieved Ashok Chavan gave the credit for the party's huge win to "team work" among the grassroots workers and "inspiration and stress on the developmental issues by our leader Sonia Gandhi".
NCP leader Pratap Chikhlikar countered Chavan's claims by alleging that the Congress had used "money power" to win the elections.
The outcome is expected to hasten the rehabilitation of Ashok Chavan who was forced to step down as the chief minister after his name was embroiled in the Adarsh Society scam.
Chavan, who has maintained a low profile after being forced to quit, has been quietly strengthening his position in Nanded and the backward Marathwada region, hoping to become an alternative to the former union minister Vilasrao Deshmukh who died two months ago.
The elections in Nanded, a major Sikh place of worship, saw campaigning by top Congress leaders like Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, state Congress chief Manikrao Thakre, Industry Minister Narayan Rane, other senior leaders and ministers.
From the NCP, former deputy chief minister and senior leader Ajit Pawar and other top officials wooed the voters.
From the opposition, Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray, his son Aditya and other BJP leaders like Gopinath Munde and Vinod Tawde also campaigned for their nominees.
The opposition's poll issues, including Adarsh Society scam, the mining scam and corruption, failed to cut ice with the voters who stuck to the Congress.
Incidentally, AIMIM chief and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi, who vigorously campaigned for his candidates, had attacked the Congress, saying that it had consistently ignored the Muslim community except when using it as a "vote-bank".
Nanded, with a significant Sikh population, is home to the revered shrine, Takhat Sri Hazoor Sahib, where the 10th and final guru, Guru Gobind Singh had breathed his last.