The Shiv Sena and the faction led by Maharashtra chief minister Eknath Shinde will face-off once again in their first electoral test at Mumbai’s Andheri (East), soon after a bitter court battle over who will hold a Dussehra rally at the Sena’s traditional venue Shivaji Park. Former CM Uddhav Thackeray may have won that round, but this is an opportunity for the Shinde faction to prove its popularity.
The bypoll to the Andheri (East) assembly segment in Mumbai, which was represented by Sena MLA late Ramesh Latke, will take place on November 3. The Election Commission on Monday announced the schedule for the bypoll, for which counting of votes will take place on November 6.
There is another reason to keep an eye on this contest as both factions are vying for Sena’s ‘bow and arrow’ poll symbol. The Election Commission is hearing pleas from both to decide on the “real" Shiv Sena and allotment of the symbol.
The Andheri (East) seat fell vacant after Latke’s death, who was a two-time MLA in a row. The ruling BJP and Shinde faction have fielded former BMC corporator Murji Patel while Uddhav is likely to field Latke’s wife Rutuja Latke. The Sena will be helped by the NCP in the bypoll, party supremo Sharad Pawar told reporters in Pune.
Andheri East assembly constituency is one of the 26 segments located in Mumbai suburban district. It is part of the Mumbai North West Lok Sabha constituency. Latke had wrested the seat from Congress in 2014 and, in 2009, it was represented by Suresh Shetty of the Congress.
Another showdown on Dussehra
Meanwhile, preparations for the two significant Dussehra rallies by the Sena and the Shinde faction are underway. There are stringent security measures in place across Mumbai, police said.
Uddhav will address Sena’s October 5 rally at Shivaji Park in central Mumbai while Shinde’s faction has organised its Dussehra event at the MMRDA ground in Bandra Kurla Complex close to ‘Matoshree’, the private residence of the former CM.
“Thousands of people are expected from across the state for both rallies and, therefore, arrangements have been made to ensure law and order and deal with any untoward incident. Local police as well as additional cover by other units will be in place," a police official said.
Mumbai joint commissioner of police Vishwas Nangre Patil said his team visited Shivaji Park and BKC to take stock of security arrangements at the venues. Stringent security measures are in place as there is a possibility of the rival factions coming face to face leading to a law and order issue, police said.
According to police, Shinde’s security cover was recently increased due to a threat input. The CM visited the MMRDA ground and took stock of the preparations for the October 5 event. “I have visited the venue (in BKC) and the preparations are in full swing. Lakhs of people from across the state will come to the rally and all departments are working to ensure they don’t face any problem. Our preparations will get over tomorrow (Tuesday) and this rally will be a success," Shinde said.
Sheetal Mhatre, a spokesperson for the Shinde camp, said preparations were close to 80 per cent over and 4,000 to 5,000 buses had been booked to ferry supporters to the rally site.
At Shivaji Park, too, the Uddhav Thackeray-led camp is making its own preparations for the rally — building a stage and making seating arrangements. The top leadership of the Uddhav faction met at Shiv Sena Bhavan, the party headquarters in Dadar, to take stock of the ongoing preparations.
(With PTI inputs)