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In 1st poll battle since MVA govt fell, Congress & NCP back Uddhav’s candidate for Andheri East

Mumbai: The upcoming Andheri East bypoll in November will be the first major electoral exercise after the fall of Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition government in Maharashtra and a vertical split in the Shiv Sena.

The bypoll was necessitated before the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation elections (also expected to take place this year) because of the demise of Sena MLA Ramesh Latke in May.

The Election Commission (EC) Monday announced the bypoll schedule, with voting on 3 November and counting of the votes on 6 November.

The Uddhav Thackeray-led faction of the Shiv Sena has decided to field Latke’s wife Rutuja from the seat, while the BJP has fielded former BMC corporator Murji Patel.

Both former MVA alliance partners — the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress — have decided to put all their weight behind Shiv Sena’s candidate.

While speaking to the reporters in Pune Monday, NCP chief Sharad Pawar declared the party’s support for Thackeray’s Sena.

Two days later, state Congress President Nana Patole also said they stand with Thackeray and that the MVA was formed to keep “communal BJP out of power for the sake of Maharashtra”.

“When BJP’s efforts to break the MVA were not successful, they broke the Shiv Sena. In the battle against BJP, the Congress party firmly stands with Shiv Sena and will not field any candidate. Instead, leaders and workers of the Congress will work with full strength to ensure that the Shiv Sena candidate wins,” Patole said.

Mumbai BJP president Ashish Shelar, though, seems confident their candidate will win with the support of the Shinde camp. Tweeting about a recent event held in Andheri East, he wrote that Murji Patel has a “lot of support from the locals”.

The election comes amid the ongoing battle between the factions led by Uddhav Thackeray and Chief Minister Eknath Shinde over who the “real Shiv Sena” is, and who has the rightful claim over the party’s symbol of a bow and arrow.

In the matter of the symbol, the Supreme Court has allowed the Election Commission (EC) to decide on who gets to keep the party symbol.

Also Read: ‘Fight like it’s your 1st’ — Uddhav tells Sena cadre ahead of BMC polls, attacks Shinde, Fadnavis

‘Murji Patel connected to people of the constituency’

The Andheri East constituency is a good mix of Marathi speaking as well as north Indian voters.

As per the data from the EC website, Ramesh Latke had gotten over 62,000 votes in 2019, while Murji Patel, who stood as an independent candidate, had come in second with 45,000 votes. The Congress’ candidate came third with over 27,000 votes.

Before becoming an MLA, Latke was a three-time corporator in the BMC and has been described as a “loyal and low profile” Shiv Sainik who was very popular in his constituency. He died due to cardiac arrest in May 2022 leaving the seat vacant.

Shelar said, “The BJP is all prepared as a by-election can be announced anytime. Murji Patel is connected to the people of his constituency,” he said while addressing BJP workers last week.

Patel won the BMC poll in 2017 under the BJP but could complete his term after facing disqualification over his fake caste certificate.

Also Read: Legacy vs Loyalty — Uddhav & Shinde to battle for ‘real’ Shiv Sena at separate Dussehra rallies

Public favour for MVA?

In May 2021, in the first bypoll since the BJP lost power in the state in 2019, the party won the Pandharpur-Mangalwedha assembly constituency with a margin of 3,733 votes.

BJP’s Samadhan Autade wrested the seat from the NCP, defeating its candidate Bhagirath Bhalke. 

But in the 2021 zilla parishad polls in six districts, the MVA won comfortably against the BJP.

Out of 85 seats, the MVA bagged 46 seats against the BJP’s 22, although the latter emerged as the single-largest party.

Similarly in Panchayat samiti polls, of the 144 seats, MVA won 73, while BJP won 33. Here Congress emerged as the single-largest party.

This trend continued in 2022, when the Kolhapur North bypoll was fought. Congress’ Jayashri Jadhav defeated BJP’s candidate by a margin of nearly 19,000 votes and retained the seat. The Congress candidate had the MVA’s support. 

The results of the gram panchayat elections were announced on 20 September and both MVA and BJP have claimed that the candidates they backed won the most seats. But since the elections are not fought on party symbols the results remain unclear.

(Edited by Theres Sudeep)

Also Read: Shinde govt revives delayed Dharavi revamp, but fed-up residents want to rebuild own societies

Source: The Print

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