According to political analysts, the results of these bypolls, which saw a high-voltage campaign by senior leaders from various parties, will set the tone for the forthcoming elections in the state, including of the cash-rich Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and other civic bodies
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A voter turnout of 41.1 per cent was recorded till 5 pm on Sunday in Chinchwad Assembly seat and 45.25 per cent in Kasba Assembly seat in Maharashtra, with several of those standing in the voting queue speaking about better roads, proper waste management and adequate water supply being the issues they want addressed.
According to political analysts, the results of these bypolls, which saw a high-voltage campaign by senior leaders from various parties, will set the tone for the forthcoming elections in the state, including of the cash-rich Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and other civic bodies.
The bypolls in Kasba and Chinchwad were necessitated due to the death of their respective Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLAs Mukta Tilak and Laxman Jagtap.
In the Kasba Assembly seat in Pune city, there is a contest between BJP's Hemant Rasane and Congress's Ravindra Dhangekar, who is supported by the Maha Vikas Aghadi alliance of the Congress, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray).
In Chinchwad, an industrial township near Pune city, the contest is between Ashwini Jagtap of the BJP and Nana Kate of the NCP. Rival candidates in both the seats have expressed confidence of emerging victorious.
As voting began at 7 am on Sunday, district election authorities in Chinchwad welcomed early voters by laying 'rangoli' (colourful patterns) and offering roses.
In the Kasba constituency also voters were seen queuing up to exercise their franchise.
Adequate security arrangements were made in both the constituencies in view of the polling, authorities said. "Necessary arrangements have been made at all the polling stations and I appeal to all the voters to come out and exercise their franchise without any fear," said Sachin Dhole, the election officer for Chinchwad constituency.
There are 510 polling centres and 5,68,954 registered voters in Chinchwad and 215 polling centres and 2,75,428 registered voters in Kasba constituency. There was a "minor clash" between supporters of Shiv Sena (UBT) rebel candidate Rahul Kalate and the BJP outside a polling station in Chinchwad and police intervened to bring the situation under control, Pimpri Chinchwad's Deputy Commissioner of Police Kakasaheb Dole said.
"We expect basic facilities should improve in our area. Whoever wins must work to repair roads and solve water woes. The summer is still some time away and we already are facing water crunch," a woman voter said in Kasba.
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Another voter said it was important a person with "good character" is elected so that he will listen to the woes of the people with empathy. Amruta Deokar, who had arrived from United Kingdom said it was a pleasant coincident the polls on the day of her arrival here.
"I decided I must not lose the opportunity to vote. Issues like water are getting resolved slowly in the peth areas but whoever wins must try to mitigate other problems," she said.
With Eknath Shinde's Shiv Sena and the BJP coming to power after the collapse of the Uddhav Thackeray-led MVA govermment in June last year, the bypolls in Chinchwad and Kasba seats have become a prestige issue for both the sides.
"Whatever is the result of these two bypolls, it is not going to affect the stability of the present government, but the bypolls are very important politically for the ruling Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena and the BJP, as well as the MVA," political analyst Abhay Deshpande told PTI. He said the MVA got success in the recently held state Legislative Council elections and if it achieves a similar success in these bypolls, it will get a big push.
"If the BJP wins both the seats, it will be a shot in the arm for it and a setback for the MVA," he added.
Deshpande claimed the traditional Congress-NCP votes are getting transferred to the Shiv Sena (UBT) because they are taking on the BJP. "But it has not been proved whether the traditional Shiv Sena votes are getting transferred to the NCP and Congress. Though the right-winger voters seem to be with Thackeray even after the split, these byelections will prove as a litmus test whether those voters will vote for the NCP and Congress," he opined.
As the two bypolls have become an issue of prestige for the MVA as well as the ruling BJP-Shinde's Shiv Sena, big leaders like NCP president Sharad Pawar, Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis campaigned for their respective candidates, he said.
"Both the sides feel these two bypolls are an opportunity to set the tone for the forthcoming civic and other elections, including of the Mumbai civic body," the analyst said.
He also claimed there are some "fence-sitters" who are disturbed on the Election Commission's decision to allot the 'Shiv Sena' name and 'bow and arrow' symbol to the faction led by CM Shinde, and through this bypoll, they are hoping that the "battle is not over yet".
Senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar, state Congress president Nana Patole and Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Aaditya Thackeray were among those who campaigned for the Kasba and Chinchwad Assembly bypolls.
Counting will take place on March 2.
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