The bypoll for the Andheri East seat in the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly will prove to be a litmus test for both the CM Eknath Shinde-Bharatiya Janata Party combination and Uddhav Thackeray and allies.
The seat, vacated by the untimely death of Shiv Sena MLA Ramesh Latke, will now be contested between his widow Rutuja Latke (Shiv Sena – Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) and BJP candidate who defeated Latke in the past, Murji Patel. The result of this survey will set the tone for the upcoming Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections.
With the split in Shiv Sena still a new affair, both sides will flex their muscles to show their strength.
On Friday, Rutuja Ramesh Latke submitted her nomination after the intervention of the Bombay High Court caused the Mumbai Civil Court to accept her resignation. It was a showdown where Thackeray’s son Aaditya and Maharashtra leaders Vikas Aghadi (MVA) attended, along with hundreds of party associates. Meanwhile, Patel also submitted his nomination. He will be the candidate of the BJP-Shinde group.
THE TURNS IN THE STORY
After a few twists and turns, both sides came face to face on Friday. The chair, a stronghold of Sena, is a matter of prestige. The Shinde group urgently used the bypoll to seek the party name – Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena and symbol (two swords and a shield) for the Election Commission. However, it has not put forward a candidacy and has instead supported BJP’s Patel. Patel was defeated by Latke in the 2019 election.
After initial speculation that Rutuja Latke would transfer to the Shinde group, a major drama ensued over her resignation.
As an employee of the BMC, she had given her letter of resignation after deciding to fight the polls. Days later it was still pending. She then approached the Bombay High Court, which gave instructions to accept it.
SYMPATHY FOR LATKE, TACKERAY
Ramesh Latke was a shareholder of Andheri for several years before being elected MLA in 2014. The BJP expects Shinde, in addition to its own strength, to help mobilize Sena resources from the constituency. It was a pain point for the BJP that Murji Patel, its favorite candidate, lost from there in the past.
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This time it is the wave of sympathy for Rutuja Ramesh Latke and Uddhav Thackeray that will be a challenge for the BJP.
On the other hand, the Uddhav Thackeray group will have to consolidate its strength to counter the BJP’s strategic planning and Eknath Shinde’s outreach to the grassroots.
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