Four parties in two major alliances in Maharashtra will be burying the hatchet and may come together in the legislative council and Rajya Sabha elections to be held in the next 15 days.
The election for the 10 seats of the council will be held on June 10, while the voting for six seats of the Rajya Sabha will take place on June 11. All these seats are to be elected by the 288 members of the legislative assembly. One council seat has to be elected from Thane and Palghar civic bodies on June 3.
Both the elections are important for ruling the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) as it has the opportunity to increase its strength in the council as well as in the Rajya Sabha. Similarly, the council elections are important for the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) as its three key leaders are retiring from the Upper House.
For the 10 legislative council elections, the BJP has decided to field two candidates from four districts – Osmanabad, Satara, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg – where the party has no representation in the legislative assembly.
Madhav Bhandari, Surjitsingh Thakur, Bal Mane, Pramod Jathar are in the fray for two seats. The BJP will allocate three seats of the five seats to be elected to three smaller allies RPI(A), Swabhimani Shetkari Paksha and Shivsangram.
Shiv Sena has decided to repeat its sitting MLCs and ministers Subhash Desai and Diwakar Raote. It is not clear if Congress will field MLC Muzaffar Hussain or prefer former chief minister and senior Congress leader Narayan Rane for the only guaranteed seat it could win.
In the course of the bargain, Shiv Sena may seek the support of the BJP to win the legislative council seat to be elected from corporators in various civic bodies in Thane and Palghar districts.
Though Congress leaders have been claiming that the party would not support the NCP candidate and rather field its second candidate, the top state leadership may bargain for the post of deputy chairmanship in the council with its estranged ally.
“During the Congress legislative party meeting on Tuesday, most of the MLAs insisted on going alone in the election as the NCP had ditched it while electing the chairman of the upper house last year. The MLAs also had said that the Congress should throw its weight around to garner 16 voters that are falling short to elect the second seat,” said a senior Congress office bearer.
“However, the high command is unlikely to go against NCP as it would send a wrong message in the state,” he added.
The NCP, on the other hand, has been claiming that the both the traditional partners have decided to join hands in the council elections.
“We have had a cordial discussion on a couple of occasions and the Congress has agreed to support our second candidate. The final decision would be taken by top leaders of both the parties in Delhi shortly,” NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik said.
The Sharad Pawar-led party, which has the highest number of the members (28) in the council, is likely to be the biggest loser in the elections as against four outgoing MLCs it would be able to elect two seats.
Chairman and deputy chairman of the council Ramraje Naik Nimbalkar, Vasant Davkhare and leader of opposition in the council Dhananjay Munde and Prakash Binsale are retiring next month.
Davkhare, who is facing Shiv Sena’s Ravindra Phatak for the council seat to be voted by 1,038 corporators from Thane and Palghar district civic bodies, is on a sticky wicket. The Shiv Sena has the highest number of corporators and with the help of the BJP, it is confident about the victory of its candidate.
In the backdrop of the likelihood of Davkhare’s defeat, the Congress has demanded the deputy chairmanship in the council.
For NCP, winning two seats of Nimbalkar and Munde would be prestigious. It is short of about 13 votes to win the second seat, while Congress has additional 14 votes if it decides not to field its second candidate.
Sena has sizable additional votes which could be passed on to the BJP candidates in the council and RS elections. The Sena’s additional votes come in exchange of the support it needs in the council seat to be elected from Thane and Palghar.
“We may have been criticising each other, in the interest of the common man we will fight all the election together as an alliance,” Sena MP Anil Desai said.
In RS election too, the BJP will need Sena’s support to win the third seat.
The BJP is likely to field its two Union ministers and sitting MPs Piyush Goyal and Suresh Prabhu from Maharashtra in the elections for six seats. For the remaining seats, Vinay Sahastrabuddhe and Shyam Jaju are in the fray.
Sena and NCP are repeating their sitting MPs Sanjay Raut and Praful Patel, while Congress is likely to replace Sushilkumar Shinde with outgoing MPs Vijay Darda and Avinash Pande.
Since the Haryana BJP unit has expressed its inability to repeat Prabhu as an RS MP when his tenure ends in next two months, the party has decided to field him from Maharashtra, along with Goyal.