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Maharashtra CM Shinde favours unopposed bypolls in Chinchwad, Kasba but aspirants stay ready

Even as Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde has called for unopposed election in the, aspirants – especially from the NCP and Congress – have started connecting to voters through personal contacts and social media in both constituencies. The seats had fallen vacant after the deaths of sitting BJP MLAs Mukta Tilak (Kasba Peth) and Laxman Jagtap (Chinchwad).

“There is a tradition in Maharashtra that if a sitting MLA dies and his close relative is fielded by the same party, then rival parties do not field their candidates. We did the same in the Andheri East bypoll held last year. We did not field a candidate against Rutuja Latke of the MVA (Maha Vikas Aghadi). We hope the same tradition will continue in Chinchwad and Kasba bypolls,” Shinde, who heads the Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena, told reporters in Mumbai on Friday.

The Sena faction’s alliance partner BJP also appears to be in agreement. However, neither party has so far approached the MVA regarding this, nor has any leader from the Congress, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) or Shiv Sena (UBT) expressed the desire for an unopposed election.

Naresh Mhaske, a spokesperson for Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena, said, “The chief minister has already called for upholding the tradition of electing a family member of a deceased MLA unopposed. We hope the tradition will be followed this time too.” When asked who will take the lead to discuss the matter, Mhaske said, “Efforts will be made for an unopposed election. We have followed the tradition, they (MVA) too should take such a step.”

BJP Pimpri-Chinchwad president Mahesh Landge said, “Our party seniors will be talking to MVA leaders. We are also waiting for a quick decision.”

The possibility of unopposed elections hinges on whom the BJP nominates. “If the BJP nominates a family member of the two deceased MLAs, then the possibility of the MVA not fielding candidates arises,” said Pune city Congress general secretary Ramesh Iyer. The saffron party will also have to approach the MVA in this regard. “In the case of Rutuja Latke in the Andheri East bypoll, MVA leaders had approached the BJP and its alliance partner after which they did not field their candidate,” Iyer pointed out.

In Kasba, Shailesh Tilak, husband of Mukta Tilak, has expressed his desire to contest. “Though I am eager to contest, it all depends on party high command. Whatever the decision the party takes, we will abide by it… On our part, we have approached the party and are waiting for their response,” he said. Shailesh said he has started going around the constituency and meeting voters in a bid to keep himself poll-ready.

In Chinchwad, Laxman Jagtap’s younger brother Shankar and his wife Ashwini Jagtap are apparently in the race for candidature. However, neither have openly spoken about it yet. The BJP’s Pimpri-Chinchwad unit denied allegations of differences within the family as to who should contest the bypoll.

Amid the uncertainty, aspirants from the Congress and NCP too appear to be preparing for the polls. In Kasba, Congress – which had lost the 2019 election – is gearing up with city unit leaders Arvind Shinde and Ravindra Dhangekar as front runners for the candidature.

In Chinchwad, Rahul Kalate of Shiv Sena (UBT) and Nana Kate, Moreshwar Bhondve and Bhausaheb Bhoir, all from the NCP, are eyeing to contest from the seat. In the 2019 election, Shiv Sena’s rebel candidate Rahul Kalate had given a tough time to two-time MLA Laxman Jagtap. Kalate had secured as many as 1,12,000 votes while Jagtap had secured 1,48,000 votes. Though Kalate lost, the number of votes he got took even Jagtap by surprise. In the 2019 election, the NCP and Congress had supported Kalate by not fielding their candidate.

“I have already started going from house to house. I am expecting an election here. Though there is talk of an unopposed election, in reality such a thing does not take place. In Kolhapur, Nanded and Pandharpur, where family members of sitting MLAs contested, unopposed elections were not held,” Kalate said.

Considered a strong contender for the Chinchwad seat in view of his “heroics” in the last election, Kalate said he was awaiting the MVA decision in this regard. “Contesting the Chinchwad bypoll will be important for the MVA as civic elections are not too far. It will help the MVA understand where it stands in comparison to the BJP,” he said.

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