Andheri East by-poll: 1st major electoral exercise since Thackeray lost power
The Election Commission of India (ECI) on Monday announced the poll schedule amid uncertainty over Shiv Sena’s symbol
The November 3 Andheri East assembly by-election will be the first major electoral exercise since Eknath Shinde become the Maharashtra chief minister with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s help after rebelling against his predecessor, Uddhav Thackeray, and the Shiv Sena’s split in June.
The Election Commission of India (ECI) on Monday announced the poll schedule amid uncertainty over Shiv Sena’s symbol. Both Shinde and Thackeray factions have claimed the symbol.
Sena lawmaker Ramesh Latke’s death in May necessitated the by-poll. The Thackeray faction of the Sena has fielded Latke’s widow, Rutuja. Murji Patel is the BJP’s candidate and hopes to win the seat with the Shinde faction’s help.
Andheri East has significant Marathi-speaking voters and the result of the by-poll is seen as a litmus test for the Thackeray faction. It is expected to provide a sense of the mood among the people over the change of government in Maharashtra.
An official of the Maharashtra State Election Commission said since the Shinde camp is not contesting the polls, the question remains whether Rutuja gets it. “In case the Shinde camp raises the objection over the symbol, the ECI will have to take a call over it. In case of pending decisions, the poll body generally freezes the symbol. As the decision over the symbol is unexpected before the last day of nomination, the call taken by it will be important.”
In a tweet, Mumbai BJP chief Ashish Shelar said Patel is getting an overwhelming response from the people.
Patel won the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation elections from Andheri in 2017 but could not complete his term due to his disqualification over his fake caste certificate. He contested the 2019 assembly polls from Andheri East as an independent and polled the second highest votes (45808) after Latke (62733).
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar said they will support Rutuja. Congress, which was also part of the Thackeray-led government, is also expected to announce its support for her. “We are still in alliance with the Sena and the NCP and will fight all by-polls together. State chief Nana Patole will make the announcement,” said a Congress leader.
Congress leader Atul Londhe questioned why did not the BJP allot the seat to the Shinde faction if it claims that it is the real Sena.