Riding on a sympathy wave, women candidates of ruling Shiv Sena and Congress and opposition Nationalist Congress Party on Wednesday won assembly by-elections in Uttarakhand and Maharashtra where Congress heavyweight Narayan Rane lost badly in Bandra East seat in Mumbai, his second defeat in six months.
In Punjab, the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal wrested the Dhuri seat from Congress by a handsome margin with its candidate Gobind Singh Longowal drubbing Simar Partap Singh, a political greenhorn and grandson of former Governor and Chief Minister Surjit Singh Barnala.
63-year-old Rane, a former chief minister who had lost from his home turf Kankavali in coastal Konkan region in last October elections, was defeated by Shiv Sena's Trupti Sawant on Wednesday by 52,711 votes. Trupti's husband Bala Sawant had died, necessitating the by-election.
Reacting to the result, Rane said he had put up a good fight on the issue of development but people have voted on the basis of emotions. “Victory or defeat is part of elections.”
In the other by-election in the state, NCP nominee and late R R Patil's wife Sumantai Patil won in Tasgaon-Kavathe Mahankal assembly constituency of Sangli district by over 1.12 lakh votes.
NCP retained the seat which became vacant following the death of RR Patil. No major party had put up candidate against her.
It was the first electoral test for the Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena combine which formed the government after contesting the polls as rivals last year. Despite strains in their ties over a host of issues, BJP and Sena projected a united front to fight the Congress.
The party position is the assembly remains unchanged as both the Sena and the NCP have retained their seats.
In Punjab, SAD candidate Gobind Singh Longowal, a former minister and three-time MLA, drubbed Congress-Sanjha Morcha joint candidate Simar Partap Singh.
The by-poll to Dhuri seat, held on April 11, became necessary after sitting Congress MLA Arvind Khanna, a close confidante of former chief minister Amarinder Singh, resigned from the seat in January.
In the past around eight years of SAD-BJP combine rule, the SAD had won three by-polls and Congress one.
Earlier, the SAD had romped home in by-polls to Moga and Talwandi Sabo seats while Congress retained Patiala seat.
While the victory of Longowal is a shot in arm for ruling Akalis, who were facing a strong anti-incumbency, it’s a set back for a divided Congress in the state.
By winning Dhuri seat, SAD's tally in the 117-member assembly has touched 59, giving the party an absolute majority and making it independent of the BJP in the house.
Uttarakhand saw the ruling Congress recording victory in the by-poll to the Bhagwanpur seat with its candidate Mamata Rakesh defeating BJP rival Rajpal Singh by nearly 37,000 votes, propelling the party to the majority mark in the state Assembly on its own.
Mamata, widow of former MLA and cabinet minister Surendra Rakesh, contested the election on a Congress ticket. She garnered 59,205 votes whereas Rajpal polled 22,296 votes at the end of the last round of counting.
The by-poll was necessitated by the death of Surendra in February, who had won the seat in 2012 assembly elections on a Bahujan Samaj Party ticket. He was a cabinet minister in the Harish Rawat government.
The victory is significant for Congress in the state as it has helped the party secure the elusive majority figure of 36 on its own in the 70-member house.
The coalition government headed by Rawat existed on the prop of seven-member Progressive Democratic Front, which Surendra was a part of.
The rest of the candidates in the fray, all of them independents, lost their deposits.
This is the fourth assembly by-poll which the Congress has won in the state with Harish Rawat in the saddle.
Image: Trupti Sawant and her supporters cheer after she won the Bandra East seat. Photograph: Sahil Salvi