Political activity reached a crescendo on the eve of the Legislative Council polls.
Twenty-four independent legislators and 13 from the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), hold the key to the elections because every party is falling short of eight to 20 votes.
Parties tried everything including keeping their own legislators in captivity to keep rivals from poaching on their votes.
There were rumours of horse-trading and buying of votes. Sources in parties said offers for one vote ranged from Rs 50 lakh to Rs 75 lakh and more in some cases.
The Congress and NCP buried their differences and pulled out all stops to get extra votes from independents and smaller parties. They convinced Raj Thackeray’s MNS to cast its 13 votes in favour of its candidates. MNS sources said the party had been promised that the suspension of four of its MLAs would be revoked in return. The legislators had been suspended for manhandling Samajwadi Party’s Abu Azmi in the Assembly.
MNS spokesperson Shirish Parkar said, “Raj Thackeray will declare who the MNS will support once he returns to India on Thursday.” Raj was on vacation in New York.
The Samajwadi Party too has pledged three votes to the NCP. The Congress-NCP combine has also garnered the support of most of the 24 independent legislators by promising them funds for their constituencies. The ruling alliance wined and dined their legislators at fancy hotels on Wednesday. “We have only hosted dinner, our legislators need not be kept in captivity,’’ said spokesperson Nawab Malik.
The saffron combine also launched an offensive to woo smaller parties and independents. Sources in the Sena said party chief Bal Thackeray himself made telephone calls to three independent MLAs who were Sena rebels.
The Sena sent its men to Royal Garden Resort and Sai Palace Resort in the Vasai-Bhayander belt along the Mumbai-Ahmedabad highway. “We have shifted the legislators because we fear horse-trading,’’ Sena MLA and party spokesperson Subhash Desai said. On Wednesday, 45 legislators were taken to Thackeray’s Bandra residence, Matoshree, and later to the Trident Hotel for the night.
All parties held last-minute parleys. The ruling alliance led by Chief Minister Ashok Chavan and NCP’s Ajit Pawar met on Tuesday to work out a strategy to avoid damaging each other’s candidates’ chances.
Senior BJP leader Gopinath Munde has been trying his best to help his nephew, Dhananjay, win the seat. The Peasants and Workers party (PWP) may vote in his favour, political sources said.