The election became necessary after the death of Rutuja Latke’s husband.
Udhhav Thackeray is heading for a predictable win in Mumbai in the first election after a BJP-backed coup led by Eknath Shinde split his Shiv Sena and unseated his government in Maharashtra in June.
Rutuja Latke, the candidate of the Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray), established a big lead as votes were counted today for the byelection to the Andheri (East) assembly seat in Mumbai. She is facing seven independent candidates.
The only surprise in the results is that the NOTA or None of The Above option won more votes than the six other candidates in the contest.
It was not really a contest after the BJP withdrew its candidate following appeals by several parties for support to Rutuja Latke. She also has the backing of the Congress and the NCP, partners in the Maha Vikas Aghadi that crashed after the Sena coup.
The election became necessary after the death of Rutuja Latke’s husband and Shiv Sena MLA Ramesh Latke in May. Rutuja Latke, who worked in the BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation) as a clerk, could file her nomination only after a court ordered the Mumbai civic body to accept her resignation.
The election in Andheri, a part of the Mumbai metropolitan area, is also significant ahead of civic polls in Mumbai.
This is the first election that the Thackerays-led Shiv Sena is fighting with a new name – Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray). For the first time in decades, it is fighting under a new symbol, the ‘mashaal’ or flaming torch.
The original name and bow-and-arrow remain, for now, with the Election Commission that gave Eknath Shinde’s faction the name Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena and sword-and-shield as symbol.
Though the BJP declared it was withdrawing its candidate out of respect for the Sena MLA who had died, Team Thackeray’s Sanjay Raut said the BJP had sensed its defeat: “The BJP conducted a survey which predicted that its candidate (Murji Patel) would lose by at least 45,000 votes.”
The Shinde faction doesn’t have much of a presence here, so the BJP was mostly on its own against Team Thackeray’s loyal Marathi voter.
Even Uddhav Thackeray’s estranged cousin Raj Thackeray had asked the BJP to not field a candidate.
Uddhav Thackeray’s faction called it “a script to save face” ahead of polls for the BMC, India’s richest civic body.
The Shiv Sena has ruled the BMC – currently run by an administrator as the last term ended early this year – for 25 years. That’s where the factional fight will test who claims the legacy of Sena founder Bal Thackeray, Uddhav Thackeray’s father.
In the previous election in Andheri East, Ramesh Latke defeated Murji Patel, who contested as an independent, by over 15,000 votes.
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