The Congress may not admit it officially but it seems poised to outwit its alliance partner, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in the June 10 state Legislative Council polls.
While it was assumed that the biennial polls would be held unopposed because all major parties together had nominated 10 candidates for as many Council seats, Congressmen Kanhaiyyalal Gidwani and Vijay Sawant filed nominations as the party’s unofficial (Independent) candidates on Monday. They have the blessings of the party leadership.
And if the two remain in the fray even after withdrawal day later this week, the parties that don’t have enough voters are expected to rely heavily on horse-trading. The scene will be no different even if one of them withdraws. In this scenario, the 30 independents — of whom 17 are backing the Congress, the rest are with the NCP — the 13 Maharashtra Navnirman Sena MLAs and the 11 Republican and Left Democratic Front legislators will be much in demand.
Despite not having enough numbers in the Legislative Assembly to win the three Council seats, the NCP fielded its third candidate. Gidwani and Sawant’s nominations are said to be the result of factionalism within the Congress. Chief Minister Ashok Chavan wanted to play safe by fielding just three candidates despite having the strength of 82 votes because the party has lost seats due to cross-voting in the past. Sections of the Congress, particularly those led by Vilasrao Deshmukh and Narayan Rane pitched for the fourth seat.
Chavan said: “Every election is a challenge but we have to be cautious”. Though the Congress will have extra votes after bagging the four seats, it is unlikely to help NCP. “The Congress has officially fielded three candidates,” said Chavan. “We’ll decide on transferring extra votes (to other candidates) later”.