Mumbai: On anticipated lines, the Maha Vikas Aghadi’s Shiv Sena-UBT candidate Rutuja R. Latke on Sunday won the Andheri East Assembly seat by-elections with a huge victory margin, officials said here.
The conquest is the first notched by the party after it got a new name Shiv Sena- Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray and a new symbol of ‘Flaming Torch’ a couple of months ago, giving a huge psychological boost to the party which suffered a devastating split in June.
Latke secured 66,530 votes – 76.85 percent – of the total votes cast and is the winner of the seat earlier held by her husband, Ramesh Latke who died in May 2022.
In a stunner, some 12,806 voters – or 14.79 per cent – exercised the ‘None Of The Above’ (NOTA) option, nearly double the votes that all the candidates of two smaller parties and four independents secured.
Against the ‘runner-up’ NOTA. independents Rajesh Tripathi got 1,671 votes, Neena Khedekar secured 1,531 votes, Bala V. Nadar of Aapki Apni Party got 1,515 votes, independent Farhana S. Sayed secured 1,093 votes, Manoj Nayak of Right To Recall Party got 900 votes, and independent Milind Kamble secured 624 votes.
Their combined total votes came to 7,234 or 8.35 percent, compared with NOTA’s 14.79 percent and way behind Latke’s 76.85 percent vote share.
The MVA has slammed the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena and its allies for blatantly propagating among the voters to exercise the NOTA option to stain the victory of Latke.
Top Sena-UBT leaders like Aditya Thackeray, chief spokesperson and MP Arvind Sawant, national spokesperson Kishore Tiwari, ex-minister Anil Parab, Deputy Leader in Legislative Council Dr Neelam Gorhe, and others attacked the BJP for its “low-level dirty politics” in the bypolls.
BJP state President Chandrashekhar Bawankule, Union Minister Narayan Rane, Minister Chandrakant Patil, and city President Ashish Shelar denied the allegations and hit back at the MVA citing peoples’ mood which saw the “huge support” for NOTA.
The winner Latke also took a potshot at ruling alliance, saying that “this is the exact number of votes the BJP would have got if it had contested the bypolls” and that’s why they withdrew their candidate, but the BJP dismissed her contentions.
The BSS, Aam Aadmi Party and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena did not put up any candidates, making it a virtual cakewalk for Latke in the elections.
Soon after her victory, Latke called on party President Uddhav Thackeray to seek his blessings, thanked all the leaders and workers of the MVA who helped in her win and also dedicated it to the ‘good work’ done by her late husband Ramesh Latke in the constituency.
Simultaneously, massive celebrations erupted with distribution of sweetmeats, music, jigs or ‘fugadee’ dancing, clapping and cheering among a large number of women, youngsters and even senior citizens in Andheri East, Bandra and Dadar near the Shiv Sena Bhavan.