A day before the crucial Rajya Sabha by-poll, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan swung into action to seek support from all Congress allies, including the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), which has had a run-in with the CM after the blasts.
Despite the rift, the NCP is expected to vote for the Congress candidate Hussain Dalwai, given that a Congress victory is near-certain, because of the Democratic Front’s strength in the 289-member Legislative Assembly.
The Shiv Sena-BJP combine has fielded BJP’s Ratnagiri legislator Bal Mane who is hopeful of getting 143 votes - a claim the Congress dismissed as baseless. The Congress, meanwhile, expects to get over 170 votes.
What forced Chavan to call on the NCP and other allies in was the uncomfortable situation he is currently finding himself in. The CM has made matters worse for the Congress by making adverse remarks on the NCP-headed home department. The simmering tension between the two parties was felt at Wednesday’s cabinet meeting when NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal slammed Chavan.
The by-poll is a tough test for Chavan for several reasons. A large section in the Congress does not consider Dalwai, contesting the seat vacated by Chavan, a popular minority leader. Also, a lot of legislators have accused the CM of not being proactive enough when it comes to developmental work in their constituencies. The 12 independent MLAs supporting the Congress made their grudge public and threatened to boycott the polls. They later withdrew their boycott following the CM’s assurance.
Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray met opposition candidate Bal Mane. “I received a call from senior BJP leaders such as Sudhir Mungantiwar, who asked me to back their candidate,” Thackeray said.
When asked about the Shiv Sena’s stand on approaching the MNS for support, Mane said, “We have decided to take help from all opposition parties and independent candidates. Anyone who is not in the Congress or the NCP is being approached.”