Pune: Maharashtra's ruling Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) was Monday defeated by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Shiv Sena combine in the keenly contested Khadakwasla assembly by-election.
The BJP's Bhimrao Tapkir, supported by all the opposition parties, trounced his main rival, the Nationalist Congress Party's Harshada Wanjale, by a margin of over 4,000 votes.
BJP Leader of Opposition Eknath Khadse, welcoming Tapkir's victory, termed the outcome as 'not surprising, but on expected lines' in view of the Congress-NCP's 'misrule' in the state.
The seat was earlier held by the late Maharashtra Navnirman Sena's popular legislator Ramesh Wanjale, whose widow Harshada contested it on a NCP ticket in the by-elections held here Oct. 13.
He died three months ago, necessitating the by-poll, but the MNS did not put up a candidate as a tribute to Wanjale's memory.
A MNS spokesperson termed the outcome 'as expected' and said Harshada Wanjale lost the sympathy of the electorate.
Senior BJP leader and Deputy Leader in the Lok Sabha Gopinath Munde also said that the ruling Congress-NCP had lost the 'sympathy' of the people and this would reflect in the ensuing civic elections in the state as well as the forthcoming assembly elections.
'It spells defeat of (NCP Deputy Chief Minister) Ajit Pawar and he has been taught a lesson,' Munde said.
Republican Party of India (RPI) leader Ramdas Athavale, expressing satisfaction over Tapkir's victory, said that the backward classes and Dalits had rejected the ruling Congress-NCP coalition and the result would set 'a new direction in Maharashtra politics'.
Congress leaders in Pune blamed the poor turnout - barely 32 percent of the total 362,000 electorate of Khadakwasla - at last Thursday's polling, as one of the factors which impacted the negative outcome today.
The elections were held under the shadow of Anna Hazare's anti-corruption and anti-Congress crusade.
BJP activists in Pune and other parts of the state broke out in joyous celebrations as soon the results were declared around noon.
The victory was preceded by several tense moments.
While Harshada Wanjale led by over 4,300 votes till the eighth round of counting, the tables suddenly turned and Tapkir notched a lead of around 9,000 votes till the 20th round.
Some rounds later, he was declared winner with a margin of around 5,000 votes.