NEW DELHI: The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Thursday failed to retain the Kasba Peth Assembly seat in Pune city, its stronghold for nearly three decades, but managed to hold on to the Chinchwad Assembly seat in bypolls. Congress’s Ravindra Dhangekar defeated BJP’s Hemant Rasane in Kasba Peth by 10,950 votes, while Ashwini Jagtap of the BJP defeated Vitthal alias Nana Kate of the Nationalist Congress Party by 36,168 votes in Chinchwad, an industrial township near Pune.
The byelections were the first direct contest between the ruling combine of BJP-Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena and the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) of Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress after Shinde became chief minister last June. The elections were necessitated by the deaths of sitting BJP MLAs Mukta Tilak (Kasba Peth) and Laxman Jagtap (Chinchwad). The BJP had represented Kasba Peth in the state Assembly for the last 28 years.
Girish Bapat, the current BJP Lok Sabha MP from Pune, had won from the seat five times till 2019. This time, Dhangekar, having support of the MVA, managed to breach the BJP’s stronghold. Dhangekar polled 73,194 votes, while Rasane received 62,244 votes, as per figures on the Election Commission’s website after the final round of counting. In 2019, BJP leader Mukta Tilak had won the seat.
She died after battling cancer in December 2022. The bypoll was held on February 26. “This is people’s victory. The day I filled the nomination form, the people of the Kasba Peth constituency decided to make me victorious,” said an elated Dhangekar. In his reaction, Uddhav Thackeray said, “It is the outcome of the BJP’s policy of use and throw. They treated us this way and now even ticket was not given to a family member of late MLA Mukta Tilak.”
Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, on the other hand, said they would introspect on the defeat, but the opposition’s victory was due to the individual calibre of the Congress candidate who did not even use Rahul Gandhi’s photo during the campaign.
Congress and other MVA constituents had levelled allegations against the BJP of luring voters with the help of money in Kasba Peth, a charge denied by the ruling party. Top leaders like NCP president Sharad Pawar, Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy CM Fadnavis had campaigned in the two byelections. The Congress and MVA had criticised the BJP for forcing its Lok Sabha member Girish Bapat, who is ailing, to campaign during the election in Kasba Peth. There was also a perception that since the BJP did not give ticket to a family member of late Mukta Tilak, Brahmin voters, who have a sizable presence in the constituency, were unhappy with the party.
In Chinchwad, Ashwini Jagtap, the wife of deceased MLA Laxman Jagtap, had a smooth sailing partly due to the vote share of the independent candidate. She polled 1,35,603 votes, NCP’s Nana Kate got 99,435 votes and independent candidate Rahul Kalate got 44,112 votes. The BJP’s tally in the 288-seat Maharashtra Assembly fell from 106 to 105.
Source: Press Trust of India