Munde's nephew wins state council bypoll on NCP ticket

Mumbai, Sep 2 (IANS) In an embarrassment to senior BJP leader Gopinath Munde, his estranged nephew Dhananjay Munde was re-elected to the Maharashtra Legislative Council on NCP ticket here Monday.

Peeved by Gopinath Munde's decision to anoint his daughter Pankaja as his political heir, Dhananjay Munde quit the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) this year and also resigned from the upper house of the state legislature to join the Nationalist Congress Party.

The NCP and the Congress backed his candidature in the by-poll to the state council seat, necessitated by his own resignation as a council member with the tenure till July 2016.

Given the comfortable strength enjoyed by the ruling alliance in the 288-member legislative assembly, Dhananjay Munde was expected to win easily.

However, in the run-up to the elections, Gopinath Munde had expressed hopes that the legislators would not vote on party lines but "as per their conscience".

Dhananjay Munde eventually secured 165 votes to trounce Prithviraj Kakade, son of veteran leader Sambhajirao Kakade, and a long-time detractor of NCP chief Sharad Pawar.

Kakade contested as an Independent supported by the Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena combine but only secured 106 votes and failed to make it to the upper house of the state legislature.

Despite the defeat, the BJP claimed that it secured 17 extra votes from the ruling Congress-NCP combine.

"This is because the NCP legislators do not approve of the destructive politics pursued by their leader (and deputy chief minister) Ajit Pawar," said BJP state president Devendra Fadnavis.

He said that attempts were made to break the opposition combine votes but it backfired with the ruling combine losing its 17 votes, which fell in favour of the defeated candidate.

Last year, Ajit Pawar created waves in the state political circles and the Mundes' stronghold, Beed, when he lured Gopinath Munde's brother Pandit Anna Munde to the NCP fold.

Later, Pandit Anna Munde's son, Dhananjay Munde also started hobnobbing with the NCP.

The Congress has 82 members, the NCP 62, BJP 46, Shiv Sena 44, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena 13 and smaller parties and Independents account for 39.

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