Former chief minister and Congress leader Narayan Rane’s hopes to make a comeback in state politics were dashed as the Shiv Sena retained its Bandra (East) Assembly seat in the by-polls held on April 11. The NCP, too, retained its Tasgaon-Kavathe Mahankal Assembly seat.
The by-polls in both constituencies were held because of the death of sitting MLAs RR Patil of NCP (Tasgaon) and Prakash Sawant of Sena (Bandra East). The widows of both the MLAs won from their constituencies.
Sena candidate Trupti Sawant defeated Rane by a margin of 19,008 votes in Bandra (East).
The victory came as a much-needed boost for the Sena and its chief Uddhav ahead of the Mumbai civic polls, which will be held in less than two years. The Sena resorted to a low-profile campaign, but ensured its committed supporters came out to vote. The victory also means the Sena is keeping its base intact, which will help Uddhav negotiate better with an aggressive BJP for seat-sharing in the 2017 civic polls. It also means Uddhav now has a firm grip over the party. Certain elements in the Sena, who were not very happy with him, will now have to keep quiet.
Meanwhile, Suman Patil won by a massive margin of 1,12,000 votes in Tasgaon-Kavathe Mahankal,
defeating Swapnil Patil, a BJP rebel contesting as an independent candidate. Though Patil’s election was a foregone conclusion because the Congress, Sena and BJP chose not to contest the by-poll as a mark of respect to her husband, all eyes were on the Bandra (East) constituency.
The Congress had fielded heavyweight Rane, who was looking to revive his political career after his defeat in last year’s Assembly election in Konkan. The high-pitched campaign by the Owaisi brothers for the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen (AIMIM) candidate also made the election a high-profile one.
However, Rane suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of Sawant, who received 52,711 votes and won with a margin higher than her husband’s in the 2014 polls. Rane managed to get 33,703 votes, while AIMIM candidate Rehbar Khan got 15,050 votes.
The second defeat in six months is a deadly blow to Rane’s political career, which began with the Sena. He went on to become chief minister in 1999 during the Sena-BJP regime, quit the party in 2005 following differences with Uddhav Thackeray and joined the Congress. After being a minister in successive Congress governments till last year, he lost his seat in the Sindhudurg district to a Sena candidate. With his second defeat opposite a Sena candidate in six months, his stakes in the Congress as well as state politics have been adversely affected.
The outcome of the by-poll is also a setback for the AIMIM. The party’s vote share reduced as compared to 2014 when they got 23,976 votes. Their candidate got 8,926 votes less this time.
The party’s ability to take away a sizeable chunk of Muslim votes, however, will worry the Congress.
Uddhav dedicated the victory to his party workers, and also taunted Rane. “The election has once again shown that the Shiv Sena is a tiger and no one should try to mess with us,” said a beaming Uddhav after the results were declared.
Rane put on a brave face and said he did not want to blame anybody for his defeat.
“I take responsibility for the defeat. Winning and losing is a part of elections. People voted out of sympathy and not development,” he said.
Addressing Uddhav’s jibes Rane said, “I have not seen defeat for the first time. I have been around for 45 years and do not need to learn from people what I should do next in my political career.”
The Congress backed Rane. “He gave a good fight and compared to last year’s Assembly polls, the Congress improved its vote share in the constituency,” said state Congress president Ashok Chavan. He also said the presence of the AIMIM benefitted the Sena-BJP.