MVA faces Pandharpur bypoll challenge amid COVID-19 surge

The byelection in Pandharpur Assembly constituency in Solapur district on Saturday amid the COVID-19 surge in Maharashtra poses a tough test to the tripartite Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA).

The seat became vacant following the death of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) MLA Bharat Bhalke owing to COVID-19 complications in November last year. Both the MVA and the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) claimed the upper hand in the electoral campaign, which concluded on Thursday. The result will be declared on May 2.

While the NCP has fielded Bhalke’s son Bhagirath, the BJP has given its ticket to Samadhan Autade, who contested the 2019 poll as an Independent and secured 54,124 votes. In 2019, the BJP’s Sudhakar Paricharak polled 76,426 votes, and Bhalke won 89,787 votes. According to the BJP, the combined votes secured by Paricharak and Mr. Autade last time are enough to ensure the party’s win this year.

Bhagirath Bhalke

Bhagirath Bhalke  

The NCP, however, has dismissed such permutations. “Every election is different. Candidates were different then. The political situation has altered manifold. We are sure of retaining the seat,” NCP’s chief spokesperson Nawab Malik said.

Allies extend support

Top leaders from the three parties comprising the MVA have thrown their weight behind Mr. Bhagirath Bhalke. The NCP firmly believes that the late MLA’s popularity, developmental efforts, and empathy of the electorate will lead the alliance to victory.

The BJP, meanwhile, is betting on Mr. Autade’s charisma and backing from the politically influential Paricharak and Mohite-Patil families. During the poll campaign, the BJP did not miss any opportunity to predict the fall of the MVA government. At a rally, Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis said, “Leave it to me on when the government needs to be changed. You all do not worry... People of Pandharpur have the first opportunity to show this government, involved in corrupt practices, its place. Ensure that Autade emerges victorious.”

Samadhan Autade

Samadhan Autade  

‘Beware of defection’

NCP State president Jayant Patil was quick to counter Mr. Fadnavis’s taunt. He said the BJP should be worrying about the possibility of another bypoll in case one of its MLAs decides to defect to the ruling alliance.

Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar said, “The one who can dislodge the government is yet to be born. While we don’t poke our noses in someone else’s business, we don’t spare those who interfere in ours.”

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Printable version | May 15, 2021 10:53:26 AM |

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