The moment dust settles on the Dussehra showdown between the two Shiv Senas Wednesday, they will have another battle on their hands: the one for Mumbai’s Andheri East Assembly seat bypoll, on November 3.
The bypoll, necessitated due to the death of sitting Shiv Sena MLA Ramesh Latke, will see the first major electoral contest between Uddhav Thackeray’s Sena and the BJP since the power equations between them changed. The Shinde Sena is unlikely to contest the bypoll, leaving the seat to its new partner.
The result will be a considerable psychological boost for the winning side ahead of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections, due soon after. The bruised Uddhav camp desperately wants to retain its BMC stronghold, while the BJP with its new-found ally Eknath Shinde sees a chance to finally wrest India’s richest civic body.
With its sizeable population of Marathi and North Indian voters, Andheri East has a good mix of electorate as an indicator of how Mumbai will vote. Mumbai BJP chief Ashish Shelar has claimed that they will win the seat by over 50,000 votes.
The Uddhav side, which continues to see an exodus of MLAs, MPs and leaders to the Shinde Sena, especially in areas outside Mumbai, has announced that it will field the late Latke’s wife Rutuja Latke for the bypoll. The BJP will field former corporator Murji Patel, who had contested from Andheri East in the 2019 Assembly polls as an Independent and come second.
Both the NCP and Congress have announced support to the Uddhav Sena’s candidate. Uddhav, in fact, is counting on strong pockets of Congress voters scattered across the constituency to help it win. The bypoll will also be the first test of endurance of the MVA alliance after having lost power in Maharashtra.
While it may not join the fight itself, the Shinde Sena will be battling on at least one front. Should the Uddhav faction contest on the Sena symbol of bow and arrow, it might strengthen its case before the Election Commission on claiming the same. The Supreme Court has left the matter to the EC and, sources said, the Shinde camp may approach the panel to stop the Uddhav group from using the symbol in the bypoll.