Pune: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Thursday failed to retain Kasba Peth Assembly seat, its stronghold in Maharashtra’s Pune district, as Congress candidate Ravindra Dhangekar defeated the saffron party nominee Hemant Rasane in the bypoll.
The BJP was in power in Kasba Peth constituency for 28 years. Girish Bapat, the current BJP MP from Pune, represented the seat five times till 2019.
This time, Dhangekar, having support of the Maha Vikas Aghadi comprising the Nationalist Congress Party, Congress and Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray), managed to breach the BJP’s stronghold.
Dhangekar polled 73,194 votes while Rasane received 62,244 votes, as per figures on the Election Commission’s website after the final round of counting.
In 2019, BJP’s Mukta Tilak had won the seat. She died after battling cancer in December 2022, which necessitated the by-election in the constituency, located in the old area of Pune city.
The victory of Congress in Kasba is significant as it was the first direct contest between the ruling BJP-Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena and the opposing MVA after the change of the state government in June last year.
“This is people’s victory. The day I filled the nomination form, people of Kasba Peth constituency decided to make me victorious,” said an elated Dhangekar, who was seen being carried by Congress workers on their shoulders outside the votes counting centre here after the result was declared.
BJP’s Rasane, while conceding defeat, said he as a candidate failed in this election and will introspect what went wrong and where.
“Earlier, it used to be a triangular contest, but this time it was a straight fight between the BJP and the Congress,” he said.
Congress state vice president Mohan Joshi congratulated the Kasba Peth voters for handing over such a “historical” win to the party and the MVA.
“This is the victory of all the MVA workers who fought this election with great unity. This election has shown that money power cannot work,” he said.
During the campaigning, the Congress and other MVA constituents had levelled allegations against the BJP of luring voters with the help of money, a charge denied by the saffron party.
As the bypolls to Kasba and Chinchwad seats in Pune had become an issue of prestige for the MVA as well as the ruling Shinde-BJP coalition in the state, big leaders like NCP president Sharad Pawar, Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis campaigned for their respective candidates.
The Congress and MVA had criticised the BJP for forcing its Lok Sabha member Girish Bapat, who is ailing, to campaign during the election.
Last month, Bapat had briefly addressed the party workers while sitting in a wheelchair and wearing a nasal cannula.
There was a perception that since the BJP did not give ticket to any family member of Tilak, the Brahmin voters having a sizable number in the constituency were unhappy. But, the BJP had claimed Brahmins were with them.