Maharashtra bypolls: Voting begins for Palghar, Bhandara-Gondia Lok Sabha bypolls

Mumbai: The by-elections to Palghar and Bhandara-Gondia Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra began this morning for which all major parties have gone all out as the outcome is likely to have a bearing on their future course.

There was no untoward incident at any polling booth so far, police said. In Palghar, the bypoll was necessitated following the death of BJP’s Chintaman Wanaga. The BJP’s bickering ally Shiv Sena has fielded the late MP’s son Srinivas in a bid to garner the sympathy vote. The BJP has put up former Congress minister Rajendra Gavit. The Bahujan Vikas Aghadi (BVA) led by Vasai-Virar strongman Hitendra Thakur is also in the fray with the nomination of its ex-MP Baliram Jadhav.

Kiran Raja Gahla of the CPI-M, which has a base in Talasari and Dahanu, and former MP Damu Shingada (Congress) are also contesting in a multi-cornered fight from the seat reserved for scheduled tribes (ST). The Sena has accused the BJP of distributing cash to voters. During a rally, Uddhav played an audio clip wherein Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis purportedly exhorted party cadre to win the elections “by all means possible.” Fadnavis said the audio recording was doctored.

An editorial in the Sena mouthpiece Saamana today said its nominee will win the Palghar seat, despite the BJP roping in UP CM Yogi Adityanath in the poll campaign. “Lord Ram will emerge from the ballot box, wielding bow and arrow (Sena’s symbol) and win this seat,” it said. The constituency includes extended suburbs of Mumbai such as Vasai, Virar, Nalasopara, and Palghar in the newly-created Palghar district.

As many as 18 candidates are in fray in Bhandara- Gondia and seven in Palghar. There are total 3,49,1218 voters. In Palghar, out of the 2,097 polling booths, 14 are listed as critical, while in Bhandara-Gondia, out of 2,149 polling booths, 71 are situated in Naxal-hit areas and 113 are listed as critical.

In Bhandara-Gondia, the BJP and the NCP have locked horns in the bypoll, being held after the resignation of BJP MP Nana Patole. Patole, a leader of the powerful OBC Kunbi community, had switched side from the Congress to the BJP and was elected as an MP from the constituency in Vidarbha in 2014 by defeating former union minister and NCP heavyweight Praful Patel. The NCP, which has allied with the Congress, has fielded former BJP MLA Madhukar Kukde, against BJP’s Hemant Patle, who belongs to the Powar community and is also a former legislator. Counting of votes will be undertaken on May 31.

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