BJP-Sena aim to increase strength in Maharashtra Legislative Council, wrest its control
After the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) consolidated its position as the single largest party in the Rajya Sabha after the recent elections to the upper House, the Maharashtra unit of the party has set its target of emerging as the largest party in the state’s legislative Council. By becoming the largest party in the upper House, the BJP will not only have a working majority with the help of its ruling partners, but will also be in a position to claim the posts of chairman and deputy chairman of the Council.
As many as 21 seats of the upper House are falling vacant in May, June and July, with the election process likely to begin from first week of April. These seats will be filled by 11 members of legislative Assembly (MLAs), six will be elected from local government bodies and two each will be chosen from graduate and teachers constituencies.
Based on the change in the number of MLAs after the 2014 elections and in local bodies during the last couple of years, the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) are expected to lose their first and second position in the upper House.The BJP is aiming to win 9 to 10 of the outgoing seats in a bid to take over the reign of the upper House.
Congress and NCP together have a strength of 42 members, while the BJP-Sena collective has a tally of 27 members in the upper House. “Of the members of legislative Council (MLCs) to be elected from among the MLAs, the Congress-NCP will be able to win only three seats against its outgoing tally of seven. From the six seats to be elected from the local bodies, BJP and Shiv Sena are likely to wrest at least three seats from the opposition parties. From among the teachers and graduate constituencies, the BJP is eyeing to win Nashik teacher’s constituency and trying to wrest the Konkan graduate seat from the NCP,” said a Congress leader who is privy to the council elections.
The BJP may exchange support with the Shiv Sena for Hingoli-Parbhani local body constituency and Mumbai graduate constituency, where public health minister Deepak Sawant (Shiv Sena) is the sitting MLC. In Hingoli-Parbhani and in Nashik, the Shiv Sena holds the key in local bodies. NCP has sitting MLCs from both these seats. With improved numbers in the Osmanabad-Beed-Latur local bodies, the BJP is eyeing to dislodge Congress’ sitting MLC and former chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh’s brother Dilip Deshmukh. The BJP is expected to retain its two seats from local bodies in Vidarbha.
According to the sources from these political parties, there will be a major ‘understanding’ within parties for the three seats to be elected from Konkan. One seat has to be elected from graduates and local bodies, which are a mixed bag of all parties. Peasants and Workers Party of India MLC Jayant Patil may work out an agreement with the BJP, Shiv Sena and the NCP for his seat in exchange of support for other two seats. Various organisations representing teachers are likely to support Kapil Patil (Lok Bharti) in Mumbai and Sandeep Bedse, former NCP leader and close aide of Chhagan Bhujbal, in Nashik.
Once in the majority, the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance is likely to claim the posts of the Chairman and deputy chairman in the legislative Council. At present, Ramraje Nimbalkar of the NCP is the Chairman and Manikrao Thakre of the Congress is the deputy chairman of the upper House.
“Besides the two important chairs, we will get a major respite from the opposition’s high-handedness due to the lack of majority. It becomes almost impossible for the government to clear the major bills, forcing it to refer back to the Assembly for passage. The Opposition has been alleging about the bias of the Speaker in the Assembly, but the Council Chairman is not far behind when it comes to favouring the opposition,” said a senior BJP minister.
State BJP chief Raosaheb Danve said the party is confident about consolidating the highest number of seats in the upper House. “We will bag the maximum seats from those falling vacant over the next three months. We will be the largest party in the upper House. Our endeavour would be taking Shiv Sena along in these polls. Claiming the posts of chairman and his deputy will be a decision to be taken at an appropriate time,” he added.
Congress leader and deputy chairman in the Council, Manikrao Thakre said, “I think Congress-NCP will be able to retain the majority in the upper House. Even if we do not, it is not necessary that BJP-Sena combine will immediately claim the posts. We did not claim them when Sena-BJP’s number reduced after their rule between 1995-99 and allowed NS Pharande to complete his term as the Chairman,” he said.