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Maharashtra: Assembly Bypoll Results Have Lessons for both BJP and MVA

Opposition MVA needs to unite for better electoral prospects, say observers, as Congress wrests Kasba from BJP.

Mumbai: The results of bypolls to two Assembly seats in Maharashtra's Pune district serve as a lesson to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to get its act together and introspect, and to the Opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) to unite for better electoral prospects, political observers feel.

Two Assembly segments in Pune district - Kasba Peth and Chinchwad - voted on February 26 in bypolls necessitated due to the death of sitting BJP MLAs Mukta Tilak and Laxman Jagtap, respectively.

In the results declared on Thursday, the Kasba bypoll was won by the Congress, a constituent of the MVA. Congress candidate Ravindra Dhangekar defeated BJP's Hemant Rasane to win this seat, which had been with the BJP since 1995.

However, BJP candidate Ashwini Jagtap, wife of late MLA Laxman Jagtap, won the Chinchwad Assembly constituency. She defeated Vitthal alias Nana Kate of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).

Talking to PTI, senior Congress leader Ratnakar Mahajan said the Kasba bypoll result inspires the MVA, which comprises the Congress, NCP and Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray), to stay united.

The result is people's verdict on local and state issues. There is nothing more to read into it, he said.

"It also shows that common voters are devoid of caste and religious considerations and are concerned about contemporary issues like price rise and unemployment that they have to deal with in their daily life," he said.

There is a misconception that Kasba is a Brahmin-dominated constituency, Mahajan said, adding that there are 13% Brahmin voters, while 60% belong to the Other Backward Classes (OBC).

"BJP leader Girish Bapat won five times from Kasba because of his connect with the masses and not due to his caste and there was no leader in the Congress to counter him," Mahajan said.

There is no logic in thinking that BJP lost because members from the Lokmanya Tilak's family were ignored. Late Mukta Tilak, who represented the constituency, belonged to the family. Congress candidate Rohit Tilak, who also belongs to the same family, was defeated from this Assembly segment twice, he added.

On the Chinchwad seat, the Congress leader said this constituency is a mix of outsider and local population because it is an industrial area.

Sitting MLA Laxman Jagtap was a local leader with strong mass connect. A builder by profession, he was with the NCP till 2014 and shifted to BJP. Rahul Kalate, the independent candidate who finished third in the Chinchwad bypoll, was earlier with NCP and later with Shiv Sena. Former CM Uddhav Thackeray personally intervened to persuade him to withdraw from the race, but Kalate did not budge, he said.

Mahajan said sympathy factor worked for Ashwini Jagtap in Chinchwad, but it did not work in Kasba even as sitting Pune MP Girish Bapat, who is critically ill, had to step out to campaign for his party and for casting his vote.

Senior BJP leader Madhav Bhandari termed his party's defeat in Kasba Peth as an "accident".

"No doubt, we will introspect on where we went wrong before we win back the constituency in 2024," he said.

NCP leader Jitendra Awhad felt the Kasba election result showed that people shouldn't be taken for granted.

"They only want a platform to express themselves," he said.

He said people expressed their anger over the "sale and purchase" of their votes.

"The Kasba bypoll result is also a warning to the corporators who plan to shift to the ruling party in the civic polls scheduled later this year," he said.

Awhad said if Rahul Kalate was not in the fray in Chinchwad, NCP nominee Nana Kate would have won. Kalate and the NCP candidate together polled more votes than the BJP candidate who won.

"Had Kalate not contested the election, the NCP candidate would have won by 20,000 votes," he said.

Talking to PTI, senior journalist and author Prakash Akolkar said the bye-election results were a lesson to the Opposition parties.

"It gave out a message that 'united we win, divided we fall'," he said.

Akolkar also said Uddhav Thackeray will have to rethink on his alliance with Prakash Ambedkar, head of the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA), who openly supported Kalate, the independent candidate in Chinchwad when Thackeray was persuading him to withdraw from the race.

Another political observer said, "The bypoll result gives out a message to the ruling BJP to get its act together and also to introspect, while it gives a message to the opposition MVA to unite for better electoral prospects."

After losing the Kasba bypoll, the BJP's tally in the state Assembly came down to 105 from 106.

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