Maharashtra Assembly bypoll: MVA seizes BJP stronghold of Kasba Peth after nearly 30 years 

BJP’s Ashwini Jagtap coasts to victory in Chinchwad as three-way fight queers pitch for MVA

March 03, 2023 01:41 am | Updated 01:41 am IST - Pune

Congress candidate Ravindra Dhangekar’s supporters celebrate his victory in the Kasba Peth Assembly bypoll, in Pune on March 2, 2023.

Congress candidate Ravindra Dhangekar’s supporters celebrate his victory in the Kasba Peth Assembly bypoll, in Pune on March 2, 2023. | Photo Credit: PTI

In a setback to the ruling coalition in Maharashtra, the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) alliance emerged triumphant in the Kasba Peth Assembly bypoll, unseating the BJP for the first time from that segment in nearly three decades.

The Congress’ Ravindra Dhangekar, the MVA’s candidate and a former four-time corporator, pulled off a thumping win in the BJP citadel of Kasba Peth in “Old Pune”, defeating the BJP’s Hemant Rasane by over 11,000 votes. Mr. Dhangekar polled over 72,000 votes while Mr. Rasane could manage a little over 68,000.

However, the BJP managed to retain the Chinchwad Assembly segment, with its candidate Ashwini Jagtap — wife of the late MLA Laxman Jagtap — coasting to victory with a solid margin of more than 36,000 votes over her nearest rival, the MVA’s Nana Kate (from the Nationalist Congress Party).

Ms. Jagtap polled a little over 1.35 lakh votes while Mr. Kate polled over 99,000 votes. However, the BJP primarily managed to win Chinchwad owing to a three-way split in votes with ‘rebel’ Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) leader Rahul Kalate, who contested as an independent, queering the MVA’s pitch by securing 44,000 votes.  

The two byelections, for which voting took place on February 26, had been necessitated following the recent demise of sitting BJP MLAs Mukta Tilak (Kasba Peth) and Laxman Jagtap (Chinchwad).

According to some analysts, the changing demographics of the Kasba segment post-delimitation in 2009 and the BJP’s lack of a strong local leader like Girish Bapat — who had held the Kasba seat from 1995-2019 — as the cause of the saffron party’s defeat.

​Remarking that the results “sent out a strong message across Maharashtra”, Leader of Opposition and NCP leader Ajit Pawar said that all three MVA parties (the NCP, the Congress and the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena faction) had worked with “a united spirit” for the election campaign.

“Despite the ruling BJP and Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena making use of every device to defeat Ravindra Dhangekar, he emerged triumphant and MVA won in a seat that had been the BJP’s stronghold for the last 28 years. A message has gone out in Maharashtra that if the three parties fight together and the seat-sharing is done properly, then nothing can stop the MVA from gaining success in future elections in Maharashtra. Moreover, the Shiv Sena cadre have expressed their anger at the manner in which Uddhav Thackeray was toppled from the CM’s post by voting against the Shinde-Fadnavis government in the Kasba bypoll,” said Mr. Pawar.

The NCP leader further observed that the MVA would have won the Chinchwad seat as well if Mr. Rahul Kalate (of the Thackeray Sena) had not contested as an Independent, thus splitting votes and undercutting chances of Mr. Nana Kate, the MVA’s candidate.

Former Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said that the BJP’s “use and throw” policy had dearly cost them in the bypolls. “First, they made use of the Shiv Sena and Akali Dal and then threw them overboard once these parties had served their purpose. They did the same with late [Goa CM] Manohar Parrikar’s son [Utpal Parrikar] when they denied him a ticket [in the 2022 Lok Sabha election]. Now, they denied a ticket to a member of the Tilak family in the Kasba Peth election.”

Mr. Thackeray claimed there was “tremendous discontent” within the Tilak family against the BJP.

However, the late Ms. Tilak’s son – Kunal Tilak – denied such suggestions.

Meanwhile, while acknowledging that the Kasba Peth defeat demanded introspection,

BJP State president Chandrashekhar Bawankule dismissed the MVA’s elation over its win, remarking that “no BJP bastion had been breached.”

“This is not the MVA’s win, but a particular candidate’s victory. Ravindra Dhangekar had voter sympathy as he had lost a previous election. Today, the Congress is nowhere in the Assembly election results to the three northeastern states [Tripura, Nagaland, Meghalaya]. Why is the Congress and the MVA so jubilant about a single win in Kasba?” said Mr. Bawankule.

A high-decibel campaign had been mounted by top BJP brass as well as Chief Minister Eknath Shinde in Kasba, while the MVA leaders, too, strained every sinew in the run-up to the polls. Deputy Chief Minister and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis visited Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad ahead of the polls, and Mr. Shinde had held a massive road show in support of the BJP’s candidates.

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