Mumbai: They may be among the smaller political formations that are otherwise deemed insignificant in the larger scheme of things but with the ruling Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) and opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) locked in a prestige fight for the 10 seats to the state legislative council, these 29 smaller parties and independents are in high demand.
The state legislative council elections to be held on Monday have 10 candidates in the fray for 11 seats and the two fronts have much at stake after the Shiv Sena’s shock defeat in the 10 June Rajya Sabha polls, where its nominee Sanjay Pawar was trounced by the BJP’s Dhananjay Mahadik.
This had led the Sena to charge that six MLAs, including independents and the three legislators of Vasai-Virar strongman Hitendra Thakur’s Bahujan Vikas Aghadi (BVA), had broken ranks with the MVA to vote for the BJP. Though Sena targetted them publicly, its allies NCP and Congress as well as BJP is wooing them for their votes in council elections.
Thakur is being wooed actively by both the MVA and the BJP, with leaders and candidates of both fronts like Jagtap, Nimbalkar, Lad and Darekar meeting him to solicit his support. However, the BVA chief has kept his cards close to his chest. Thakur is an MLA from Vasai, while his son Kshitij represents the Nalasopara constituency. Boisar is represented by BVA’s Rajesh Patil.
“They keep coming during the elections and then people talk about horse-trading,” Thakur said.
Independent MLAs like Rajendra Raut, Sanjay Shinde and Prakash Awade are being persuaded by Congress, NCP as well as BJP. Among other things that are being promised, the parties are also offering official candidature in the next assembly election.
While canvassing his support for the MVA, Abu Asim Azmi of the SP kept the three parties guessing about whom he would vote for. “We will vote for the MVA. But we have not yet decided who will vote. We have not voted for the BJP nor will we do so in the future,” he said. Vinay Kore Savkar of the Jana Surajya Shakti is firm with the BJP.
While the elections to the Rajya Sabha are conducted by open ballot, those to the legislative council take place via secret ballot, which means that there is a possibility of horse-trading and cross-voting which all parties are wary of.
The BJP has fielded five candidates, namely Pravin Darekar, Shrikant Bharatiya, Ram Shinde, Uma Khapre and Prasad Lad. The Shiv Sena’s candidates are Sachin Ahir and Amshya Padvi, while the Congress has fielded Bhai Jagtap and Chandrakant Handore. Legislative council chairperson Ramraje Naik Nimbalkar and Eknath Khadse are the NCP’s nominees.
The Congress needs 12 extra votes for its second candidate Jagtap and the BJP requires 22 extra votes if its fifth candidate Lad has to sail through. Insiders admit that it is tough to predict the outcomes.
The BJP has 106 MLAs in the 288-member assembly, followed by the Shiv Sena (56), NCP (53) and Congress (44), with the rest being smaller parties like the BVA (3), Samajwadi Party (SP) (2), All India Majlis E Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) (2), Prahar Janashakti (2), and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), Communist Party of India- Marxist (CPI-M), Jana Surajya, Peasants and Workers Party (PWP), Rashtriya Samaj Party (RSP), Krantikari Shetkari Paksha and Swabhimani Paksha (one each). Of the 13 independents, four are with the BJP. A candidate will have a quota of around 26 votes to get elected.
An upset Shiv Sena has insisted that instead of plotting the strategy of the MVA as a whole, individual parties undertake the task of arranging surplus votes for their nominees.
Meanwhile, Nana Patole, president, Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC), charged that the BJP was using the central enforcement and investigation agencies to coerce legislators and influence the outcomes of the polls.
“The central agencies are being used to suppress the voice of the opposition and have also been deployed during the legislative council polls to coerce the MLAs. Legislators are being contacted directly and we have details about this and will reveal it soon,” he added.
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