After having received the Bombay high court’s clearance to conduct the Legislative Council by-polls, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan faces yet another litmus test for winning the election unopposed.
Following a public outrage against the government over corruption charges and several land scams, the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance has decided to field a candidate against Chavan.
“We will decide our poll candidate at a meeting on April 17,” Sudhir Mungantiwar,BJP president, told HT.
“We have decided to field a candidate against Chavan. There will be an Opposition candidate as a part of the electoral process,” BJP general secretary Vinod Tawde said.
The recent development has worried Chavan’s supporters. His think tank felt that the unanimous election of the CM would avoid the embarrassment of cross voting even though the Congress and its allies have a strength of more than 170 members in the 289-member Legislative Assembly. They will vote on May 4.
Chavan replaced Ashok Chavan as the chief minister on November 11, 2010. He has to become a member of either house of the state legislature within six months from the date of his swearing in.
Earlier, the Congress struggled to create a vacancy for the CM since the legislators asked to quit their posts demanded political rehabilitation. Last month, party general secretary Sanjay Dutt vacated his seat so that Chavan could fulfill his legal mandate.
The CM faced yet another problem in the form of a petition against Dutt’s election. On Wednesday, the high court allowed the Election Commission to conduct the poll.
Dutt said the Congress expected the Opposition to respect precedents set by their predecessors. “Traditionally, in Maharashtra and elsewhere, the Opposition does not contest or pulls out of the race when the CM contests such poll. This is seen as healthy politics and a gesture to show respect to the CM’s post.”
However, a source close to Mungantiwar said the saffron alliance would fight it out despite having no chances of winning. “We have been unearthing scam after scam in the budget session of the legislature. It won’t be politically correct if we allow the CM to win without competition.”
Chavan’s poll managers claim the move would only expose the Opposition. “There are many splinter groups within the BJP, the Shiv Sena and other Opposition parties. So, the CM will get more votes than our actual strength of about 175,” said a senior state Congress functionary on condition of anonymity.