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Gadkari camp in BJP city unit on cloud 9

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) senior leader Vinod Tawde yesterday claimed that party MP Gopinath Munde did not care about the performance of the party in the Khadakwasla assembly by-election as he had not even bothered to enquire about the result. BJP candidate Bhimrao Tapkir won the bypoll with 59,634 votes, defeating Nationalist Congress Party candidate Harshada Wanjale by a margin of 3,625 votes. The poll result is widely seen as a victory for the faction in the city BJP loyal to party national president Nitin Gadkari.

The other faction in the city BJP is the one loyal to Munde. BJP city unit president Vikas Mathakri, who is a supporter of Gadkari, had been instrumental in choosing Tapkir as the party candidate. "It is a victory for Team Mathkari. If there would have been no factions within the party at the city level, then our candidate would have won the election with an even larger margin," Tawde said. Tapkir's victory came as a surprise for many Wanjale had been expected to ride the sympathy wave as it was the death of her husband, MNS MLA Ramesh Wanjale, that had necessitated the bypoll.

The fact that many MNS leaders supported the BJP also helped Tapkir. Now, with Tapkir's victory sealed, the focus has shifted back to the BJP, and political pundits are talking about how the Gadkari camp has once again overpowered the Munde camp in the city.  The tussle between the two camps started with the appointment of Mathkari as city party chief.

The party has often claimed it will step in to defuse the power tussle between Gadkari and Munde, who is Deputy Opposition Leader in the Lok Sabha, but this does not seem to have happened so far. Political experts said the result of the Khadakwasla bypoll showed once again that the Gadkari camp was dominant, at least in urban areas.

Professor of Political Science from Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar College, Yerawada, Dr Nitin Birmal said: "Though it has been the party's victory, if we observe the urban areas which are included in Khadakwasla constituency, these are all upper middle class and inclined to go with BJP's Gadkari camp. The second obvious reason was MNS voters shifting to BJP. So, though the ratio of voters was less, the urban areas in the constituency led to the victory of Tapkir."

Yogesh Gogawale, a supporter of Munde, denied there was a rift in the party during the bypoll, but admitted that there was internal friction in the party.  "Though we have infighting in the organisation, I would say it has been a victory of the party and not of any particular group," Gogawale said. He also hinted that the victory was possible only because of Munde's magnanimity, as he had kept aside all differences and campaigned for Tapkir. BJP senior leader Eknaath Pawar said: "I don't have any idea what Tawde has said, but Gadkari is the party's national president and it's obvious that the party's victory is his (Gadkari's) victory."

MNS factor
The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) has claimed that it was due to the MNS support for the BJP that it could win the bypoll. MNS leader Ajay Shinde said that the BJP-Sena alliance had never won in any election with so many votes. "It was possible as our voters shifted to the BJP and we also gave our support to the BJP candidate," Shinde said.

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