INDIA. Mumbai: In a first electoral victory for the Uddhav Thackeray faction after the Shiv Sena’s split, its candidate Rutuja Ramesh Latke won the Andheri East Assembly by-election securing 66,530 votes, the counting for which was held on Sunday.
Rutuja Latke got more votes than her late husband, Ramesh Latke, whose death in May this year prompted the bypoll. The polling was held on November 3, and out of 2,71,000 eligible voters, 38 % votes cast their votes.
This was the first electoral contest in Maharashtra after the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government collapsed in June following a revolt by a section of Shiv Sena MLAs led by Eknath Shinde (now chief minister).
However, a notable feature of this election was a record number of NOTA (None of the above) votes cast, as alleged by the Shiv Sena that its detractors were urging voters to press the NOTA button on the Electronic voting machine to reduce the margin of Latke. In all, 12,806 voters opted for NOTA.
Shiv Sena leader and MLC Anil Parab had alleged a few days back in a press conference that its opponents were urging voters to go for the NOTA option. He had also produced a small video made by the Shiv Sena opponents to deter voters from voting in favour of Latke.
Other candidates- Aapki Apni Party’s Bala Vyankatesh Vinayak Nadar, the Right to Recall Party’s Manoj Nayak, and the independent candidates Nina Khedekar, Farhana Siraj Sayed, Milind Kamble, and Rajesh Tripathi all received fewer than 2000 votes individually.
“After the conspiracy snatched our traditional election symbol of Bow and Arrow and party name (Shiv Sena), Mashaal (Flaming Torch) (new symbol) was lit, and the saffron flag was unfurled. Had the BJP contested these polls, the NOTA votes would have gone to them. This is the beginning of a fight,” Uddhav Thackeray said.
Whereas Latke said that “This victory is of my husband and the development works he did in Andheri, and I will continue with it”. In a tweet, BJP Mumbai unit president Ashish Shelar said Latke could win because of BJP’s backing.
The election commission announced a bypoll for Ramesh Latke’s seat following the death of the twice-elected Shivsena MLA. The MVA constituents, the Congress and NCP and also some left parties had also extended their support to Latke.
Subsequently, MNS Chief Raj Thackeray and NCP Chief Sharad Pawar suggested that the election should be unopposed, and BJP candidate Murji Patel withdrew his nomination last month.
Over 1,600 government employees were engaged in the poll process on 256 booths located at 38 places for this election.