Senior Congress member Hussain Dalwai won the Rajya Sabha by-poll on Friday, defeating Bharatiya Janata Party's Bal Mane by 70 votes.
The ruling Democratic Front and the Shiv Sena-BJP Opposition managed to keep their flock together. The 12 Congress supporter independents, who had threatened to boycott the poll, voted for the Congress candidate.
Dalwai polled 175 votes and Mane received 105. Of the 287 members of the state Legislative Assembly, 282 took part in the election. Five MLAs, three from the Nationalist Congress Party, one each from Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and Communist Party of India (M) did not attend, while two votes, one each from Congress and NCP were invalid.
Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan (Congress) and deputy CM Ajit Pawar (NCP) credited the unity in the ruling front for Dalwai's comfortable victory. Dalwai will replace Chavan in the Rajya Sabha because the CM had vacated the seat to become a member of the state legislature. He will have a two-and-a-half-year term.
Dalwai will now vacate his Legislative Council seat for which the Congress member Sanjay Dutt has been decided as the party's official candidate. Dutt had given up his council seat for the chief minister.
"I'm confident that Dalwai, with his all-round experience, will perform well in Parliament,'' Chavan said. "Our victory showed that we (the Congress-NCP, other allies and independents) are united and stand firm to serve the people. Now, I expect Dalwai to take up the issues of the state."
Pawar said he felt bad that three of his legislators Ballabh Benke (he was unwell), KP Patil (his two sons got married on Friday) and Dr Vijaykumar Gavit (on a foreign tour) could not vote. "Otherwise we would have increased our tally even more." Dalwai hoped to live up to the expectations of his DF colleagues.
On the Opposition side, MNS legislator Shishir Shinde could not travel from New Delhi to the city in time. CPI (M) Rajaram Ojhre skipped the poll and was not available for comment.
Opposition leader in the Assembly, Eknath Khadse (BJP) thanked his colleagues for standing united. "It's good that we're all together when the crucial Legislative session starts from Monday," Khadse said.