Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis on Thursday said his party will introspect why it lost the Assembly bypoll to the Kasba Peth seat in Pune district and maintained the victorious Congress candidate won on the strength of his own political calibre. Earlier in the day, Congress candidate Ravindra Dhangekar defeated Bharatiya Janata Party nominee Hemant Rasane to win the Kasba Peth Assembly seat, which had been with the BJP since 1995. Dhangekar, a five-time Pune corporator and prominent local politician, joined the Congress in 2017.
Speaking to reporters, Fadnavis said, “Congress candidate Dhangekar did not even use the photos of his party leader Rahul Gandhi (during campaigning). He had natural sympathy (of voters) and this was reflected in our (pre-poll) survey as well. But we thought we could still pull if off .”“We have accepted the mandate of the people in the Kasba Peth Assembly segment and we will introspect over it (poll outcome). We will definitely win back Kasba Peth in the 2024 Assembly elections,” said the BJP leader.
Two Assembly segments in Pune district -- Kasba Peth and Chinchwad -- voted on February 26 in bypolls necessitated due to the death of sitting BJP MLAs Mukta Tilak and Laxman Jagtap, respectively. Out of these, the Kasba Peth bypoll was won by the Congress, a constituent of the Opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA), with a margin of 10,950 votes. However, BJP candidate Ashwini Jagtap, the wife of late MLA Laxman Jagtap, won the Chinchwad Assembly constituency. She defeated Vitthal alias Nana Kate of the Nationalist Congress Party by 36,168 votes.
Leader of Opposition in Assembly Ajit Pawar of the NCP claimed independent candidate Rahul Kalate took away votes of their candidate Kate which resulted in BJP candidate Jagtap winning the seat. Kalate bagged 44,112 votes. Reacting to Pawar's claim, Fadnavis said, “Some people are trying to mislead over the poll outcome in Chinchwad. Kalate in 2019 had contested against BJP candidate Laxman Jagtap independently and tried to attract some Shiv Sena votes. This time also similar electoral tactics were employed but voters remained firmly behind the Jagtap family and the BJP.”
Asked about Opposition claim that BJP's defeat in Kasba Peth was a loss for Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and also him (Fadnavis) since they extensively campaigned in the constituency, the deputy CM said, “Ajit Pawar, Sharad Pawar and Uddhav Thackeray (prominent Maha Vikas Aghadi leaders) also campaigned for their candidate (Nana Kate) in Chinchwad. Why such a question was not asked to them?"
Commenting on former CM Uddhav Thackeray's criticism of the BJP indulging in "use and throw" policy, Fadnavis maintained his former ally should reflect on why most of his MLAs have deserted him. “Uddhav Thackeray needs to introspect on his priorities. As many as 40 MLAs have left him and he is still talking in the old tone. For how many days, he is going to celebrate other party's (electoral) success?” said the BJP leader.