A low-profile but focused campaign by its committed cadre, which was charged all the more with the presence of arch rival Narayan Rane in the fray, helped Shiv Sena pull off a thumping victory in the Bandra (East) by-poll.
Bypassing all estimates, Sena candidate Trupti Sawant defeated Congress strongman Narayan Rane with a margin of 19,008 votes. Sympathy for Sawant, the passing away of whose husband Prakash necessitated the poll, seems to have played a major role, with her polling 52,711 votes.
Before the counting, the fight was expected to be neck-to-neck, with the winner scraping through with a margin of 2,000 to 3,000 votes.
The Sena focused on door-to-door campaigning, highlighting Rane’s high-handed ways in Konkan and ensuring maximum number of its supporters turned out to vote. The absence of a BJP candidate and some help from its ally also worked in the Sena’s favour. In the assembly polls last year, BJP had finished second, polling just 15,000 votes less than the Sena.
Party leader Anil Parab, who was given the responsibility of the campaign, said, “We ensured our workers reached every household in the constituency and convinced the voters. We achieve this big winning margin thanks to the full-fledged support from Maharashtrian voters.”
On other hand, lower turnout and splitting of Muslim votes between Congress and AIMIM led to the humiliating defeat of Rane, who got 33,703 votes.
Trupti received more votes than Rane and AIMIM’s Rehbar Khan together. In the last Assembly elections, Sena had received 41,388 votes. Its performance this time indicates BJP sympathisers also supported it.
Sena has claimed Muslims from Maharashtra Nagar and Dyaneshwar Nagar also chose it.
Sawant had taken a l ead early on in the counting process. Barring a few rounds, she maintained her lead.
After the ninth road, with victory almost certain, Sena workers started gathering near the counting centres. A sea of saffron burst crackers and chanted slogans against Rane. Some party workers even took the celebration outside Rane’s Juhu home, in an apparent attempt to peeve him.
“I will ensure all promises made by my late husband are fulfilled,” said the wining candidate Sawant.
Rane accepted responsibility for the defeat.
AIMIM’s Rehbar Khan, meanwhile, blamed the money and muscle power used by his competitors for his defeat. “I was supposed to win from here. However, Sena and Congress influenced the voters by distributing money and using muscle power,” Khan said.