As expected, the Congress has renominated ex-chief minister of Maharashtra and Union minister for science and technology Vilasrao Deshmukh for the March 30 Rajya Sabha polls.
However, the Congress high command’s decision to repeat Union minister of state for parliamentary affairs Rajiv Shukla disappointed state Congress leaders because they wanted a local to be nominated. Shukla was nominated six years ago from Maharashtra because the party did not have legislator strength to get him elected from his home state of Uttar Pradesh.
In doing so, the Congress high command also upset Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar - chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and state Congress president Manikaro Thakre’s preferred candidate. Ambedkar had joined hands with the Congress in the recent polls and state leaders expected to strengthen ties with the former Lok Sabha MP by offering him a Rajya Sabha seat.
Another republican leader, Ramdas Athawale, who supported the Shiv Sena in recent polls, was disappointed because he did not get the Sena nomination. Sena’s general secretary Anil Desai is the party’s official nominee. Sources in the Congress said the party did not think of Ambedkar because the Sena had already turned down Athawale’s demand.
“The Congress could have countered Athawale’s nomination with Ambedkar, an equally influential republican leader.”
An upset Athawale protested on Saturday by boycotting the function to felicitate Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray and Sena-RPI’s newly-elected city corporators.
Of the six seats, Congress can get two seats without much trouble because it has enough numbers in the legislative assembly. But its ally, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) does not have strength of its own to get two seats elected. It will have to ask Congress for spare votes, and also woo independents. NCP has given one seat to former Pune mayor Vandana Chavan.
The BJP favoured Nagpur businessman Ajay Sancheti, a close confidant of party’s national president Nitin Gadkari. Both parties have adequate numbers of voters to get their candidate elected.
Deshmukh filed his nomination on Saturday. Shukla will submit his papers on Monday. The biennial elections were necessitated because Deshmukh and Shukla (both Congress), Bal Apte (BJP), Manohar Joshi (Shiv Sena), Govindrao Adik and Ranjitsinh Mohite Patil (both NCP) will retire from the upper house in April this year.