MUMBAI: The BJP’s withdrawal of its candidate from the Andheri East by-election, scheduled for November 3, is being considered a strategic retreat for big political gains in the future. The by-election was necessitated after Ramesh Latke, the MLA representing Anderi East, died following a cardiac arrest in Dubai last May. The BJP had fielded Murji Patel from the seat whereas the Shiv Sena (Uddhav Thackeray faction) gave ticket to Latke’s widow Rutuja.
The candidature of Rutuja wasn’t an easy one. She was an employee of the BMC and, as per the rules; it was required that she should resign from her job, which she did. The Uddhav faction alleged that the acceptance of her resignation was delayed because the Shinde faction wanted to field her. She finally approached the Bombay High Court, which directed the BMC to accept her resignation.
While the legal impediment over Latke’s candidature was cleared, MNS chief Raj Thackeray shot off a letter to Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis requesting that the BJP should withdraw its candidate, citing a tradition in Maharashtra wherein widows of deceased legislators could win unopposed. Pratap Sarnaik, an MLA of the Eknath Shinde faction, also asked for the withdrawal of the candidature. NCP chief Sharad Pawar echoed similar sentiments.
The BJP leadership slept over these pleas only to announce the withdrawal of its candidate, barely three hours before the deadline. The party’s state president Chandrashekhar Bawankule told journalists that the decision was taken to conform to Maharashtra’s political tradition.
However, political pundits believe that the withdrawal was based on prudence. The BJP, they opine, didn’t want to become penny-wise and pound-foolish. It is putting all its efforts to win the BMC polls in the next few months and it didn’t want its opponents to score a point for their campaign. Also, the Thackeray-led Shiv Sena would have gone to town alleging that the BJP was suppressing Marathi Manoos in Mumbai, since Murji Patel is a Gujarati while Rutuja Latke is a Maharashtrian.