It is likely to be an eventful Monday at Vidhan Bhavan with the Shiv Sena and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) locking horns in the by-elections for a Legislative Council seat.
The seat, which is from the Legislative Assembly quota - this means the 289 Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) will vote for it - got vacant after former Sena leader and Member of Legislative Council (MLC), Kiran Pawaskar, quit the party and joined the NCP on January 7 this year.
Pawaskar, who will contest on an NCP ticket, will face Sena candidate, Rahul Narvekar, head of the saffron party’s legal cell.
The numbers in the Assembly indicate that the NCP is likely to win because the Congress-NCP alliance has 145 MLAs while the Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party has only 91. There are at least 24 independent legislators in the Assembly.
Both sides were hoping for support from the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), which has 13 legislators, but MNS chief, Raj Thackeray, has said that his MLAs will abstain from voting.
The MNS was not willing to take sides although it has been unhappy with the Congress-led government for taking a soft stand when the police thrashed their MLA, Harshavardhan Jadhav, at Aurangabad, in January.
The Sena, however, is positive. “We will be giving them a tough fight. Effectively, about 275 people will be voting. We need only 138 votes to get through which is not difficult,” Narvekar said.
Sena sources claimed that the fact that Pawaskar is a defected candidate and the infighting within the Congress-NCP combine may work in their favour.
Earlier this month, state Congress chief Manikrao Thakre had told reporters that the seat should have come to the Congress party considering Pawaskar, when in the Sena, had defeated Congress MLC Sudhakar Gangane to get it. Congress party sources said chief minister Prithviraj Chavan could have also contested.
State NCP chief, Madhukar Pichad, said the seat was theirs. “And we will win it considering we are in a majority. Pawaskar left the Sena and the MLC seat to join the NCP and we need to consider that,” Pichad said.