Results of two bye elections reflects the nature of sympathy-politics in India, but also reinforces Congress’s continuing failure in reviving itself

Voices Thursday, April 16, 2015 - 05:30
The recent by-polls in Tasgaon in Sangli District and Mumbai’s Bandra (East) constituency have further dented the image of the Congress in Maharashtra. Both the constituencies went to polls following the deaths of sitting MLAs. In Tasgaon, elections were held after the death of NCP leader and former state Home Minister RR Patil. Predictably, his wife, Suman Patil, won the polls on a sympathy wave. The Bandra (E) election, however, was hotly contested. Following the death of Shiv Sena stalwart Balasaheb Sawant, all the parties –the Shiv Sena, Congress and Owaisi’s MIM – leapt at the opportunity to capture the seat. And contesting on a Congress ticket was Narayan Rane. Bandra (E) seat has symbolic significance for Shiv Sena, and Narayan Rane, the erstwhile blue eyed boy of Shiv Sena Supremo Balasaheb Thackeray. For one, the late Balasaheb’s official residence ‘Matoshri’ falls in this constituency and it would be a huge embarrassment for the party if they lose it. Rane, who admirably established the Sindhudurg Taluka, was made the Chief Minister of Maharashtra by Thackeray after the then Chief Minister Manohar Joshi resigned in 1999. In 2005, it was in `Matoshri’ that Narayan Rane was shown the door, after he vociferously protested against Uddhav Thackeray being made the President of Shiv Sena. Rane then joined the Congress party. His arch enemy Uddhav now resides in ‘Matoshri’, and Rane was fighting from the same constituency. The battle for Bandra (E) was thus more than just a by-poll. It was a matter of prestige for the Shiv Sena, and could have been a resounding victory for Narayan Rane. This round of by-polls was also the first election campaign lead by Ashok Chavan, who is known not to get along with Rane. But for Chavan, politics trumped personal differences, and he put his weight behind Rane. Owaisi’s MIM was also campaigning vociferously in Bandra, hoping to eat up Congress’s seat and make its mark while continuing the trend of making inroads into Maharashtra. Rane too, was hoping to wrest away the Muslim votes from MIM and impress the Congress. Rane’s failure in Bandra perhaps reflects people’s fatigue in keeping up with hisrebellious nature. He had lost the assembly elections last year. His son Nilesh Rane also lost his Lok Sabha contest in 2014. Political Pundits are predicting a dull future for Rane but the Congress party is shielding him from such negative predictions. Ashok Chavan told the media after the defeat that he was happy he was able to put up a strong leader against the Shiv Sena and that there was no better choice than Rane.. For the electorate at large though, these by-polls were the same old story. Members of Shiv Sena and Rane’s supporters clashed on the streets after the results are announced. The politics in Maharashtra is trapped in the battle of revenge between political parties and a crass culture which adorns it.

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