Mumbai With polling for the 10 seats of the legislative council today, as many as 285 MLAs, including 29 from smaller parties and independents, are going to cast their votes in a close contest with 11 candidates in the fray. A candidate will have to get a quota of 26 votes to get elected.
Despite an open ballot system and enough votes on the side, the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) was scorned in the Rajya Sabha election after Shiv Sena candidate Sanjay Pawar had to face defeat. Hence, the ruling parties have decided to keep their strategies under wraps and have decided to brief their MLAs only at the eleventh hour.
The Bharatiya Janata Party has fielded five candidates- 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 Nationalist Congress Party’s nominees.
Political parties are wary as council polls are conducted through a secret ballot system. On Sunday, all the four major parties — BJP, Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress- held separate meetings with their legislators. All of the four parties have lodged their MLAs at four different five-star hotels in Mumbai to prevent poaching attempts.
The legislators were informed about the voting process and the rules and regulations that need to be followed properly. Amid fear that the BJP could repeat the Rajya Sabha poll results, all the three ruling parties have maintained silence about their strategy and decided to brief MLAs at the eleventh hour.
“On Monday morning, MLAs will be informed about whom to vote for first preference and whom for second preference,” said a NCP leader, privy to the development.
The fear of cross-voting looms large because of the secret ballot system. Apart from having individual party meetings, senior MVA leaders held discussions with the chief minister Uddhav Thackeray on Sunday evening. Before that, senior Congress leaders Balasaheb Thorat and Satej Patil had a meeting with Ajit Pawar at Hotel Trident where NCP MLAs are staying. Sena MP Arvind Sawant too met Congress leaders at Four Seasons late Sunday evening.
AIMIM MLA Farooq Shah also had a meeting with Ajit Pawar at the hotel. The party has two MLAs. Shah declared extending his support to Khadse.
Chief minister Uddhav Thackeray expressed confidence in winning the election and said that there would be no cross-voting. Thackeray said that the election is to show that Sena cannot be divided and that Maharashtra does not bow before the arrogance of power.
The Sena legislators and its supporting MLAs are kept at the Westin Hotel in Powai. “I am not worried about the election; we will win tomorrow. In the Rajya Sabha election, not a single vote from the party and its supporting legislators had gone to the other side. I do not think there would be any cross-voting because there are no treacherous people in Shiv Sena,” Thackeray said.
He further added, “Tomorrow’s election is to show that nobody can divide us. It is also to show that arrogance of power does not last in front of Maharashtra.”
The Sena chief added that the loss in the Rajya Sabha election was unfortunate. “I am giving voice to a (tribal) region that did not get representation. You (legislators) have to vote for him (Padvi). Sachin Ahir is working well in the Bharatiya Kamgar Sena and as Sampark Pramukh in Pune. I took his test for a few years and have given him candidature. Both the candidates will help us in the legislature,” Thackeray said.
BJP that has fielded five candidates does not have the votes to get its fifth candidate — Lad — through the finish line on paper. However, the party is riding high on the numbers it pulled in the recent election, where it managed to defeat Shiv Sena candidate.
BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis interacted with party legislators at Taj President hotel in Cuffe Parade to fine tune the election strategy.
Senior BJP leader and former minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said, “There are several legislators who are unhappy with the MVA and chief minister. Legislators have the opportunity to display their unhappiness in the election. Like it happened in the Rajya Sabha election, BJP will prevail and the party will give ‘Prasad’ (devotional offering) to the Maha Vikas Aghadi government.”
Patole said that many BJP MLAs are in their contact. “We have better coordination among MVA allies; smaller parties and independents are also supporting MVA. BJP is facing infighting and a few of their MLAs are in touch with us. You will get to see a different picture this time,” Patole claimed.
NCP candidate Eknath Khadse also said he did not believe that BJP MLAs would vote for him. “I have many supporters in BJP as I have helped many to get election tickets and made some of them ministers in the ministerial council. They love me but I don’t believe they will vote for me by going against BJP,” Khadse told reporters.
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