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Birthday gift for Bal Thackeray, jolt for Congress in bypoll

The ruling Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) alliance in Maharashtra got a rude jolt Saturday when it trailed in the third position behind Shiv Sena and Samajwadi Party (SP) in the Bhiwandi East assembly by-election. The Sena proclaimed its victory as "a birthday gift" for party chief Bal Thackeray who turned 84 Saturday.

Sena candidate Rupesh Mhatre secured 35,376 votes in the predominantly Muslim constituency in the neighbouring Thane district.
SP candidate, socialite-hotelier Farhan Azmi, son of state SP chief Abu Asim Azmi, secured 33,700 votes and lost by 1,676 votes though the seat was won by his father in the October 2009 state elections.
Congress-NCP nominee Muzaffar Hussain, an aggressive youth leader and Member of Legislative Council, ranked a distant third with 24,428 votes.
The Sena has proclaimed Mhatre’s victory as "a birthday gift" for Bal Thackeray.
It also termed the victory as a fitting reply to Azmi senior, who had refused to take his oath in Marathi in the assembly Nov 9 last year and was assaulted by Maharashtra Navnirman Sena legislators inside the House.
With this, the party’s tally goes up to 45 in the 288-member Maharashtra assembly.
The Bhiwandi East bypoll was necessitated after Azmi senior gave it up in favour of Farhan and chose to retain Mankhurd seat in north-east Mumbai which he had also won in the last elections.

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