Mission 180: BJP looks beyond halfway mark to win Maharashtra trust vote
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is pulling out all stops to win a majority in the 288-member Maharashtra Assembly, but without much hoopla and away from the eye of the media.
The party is looking at a target of 170 to 180 legislators. The half-way mark in the 288-member house is 145.
At least four senior leaders and turncoats from the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), including Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, Narayan Rane, Ganesh Naik and Babanrao Pachpute, have been asked by BJP leaders to get in touch with MLAs and their old contacts from other parties.
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They have been asked to tap into Sena and Congress legislators, who would be willing to join the BJP.
Close aide and water resources minister Girish Mahajan too has been put on the job. Besides its own 105 legislators and 15 independents (currently it has support letters of 11 MLAs), the BJP is counting on deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar bringing in 27 to 30 MLAs of the NCP to support it. This can take the party strength to 143 to 146. “We are aiming to getting our Speaker elected. The speaker’s election is by a secret ballot,” said a BJP former minister. But with NCP chief Sharad Pawar putting up a fight, the BJP is keen on bolstering the numbers to be on the safer side on the day of the trust vote.
“We are relying on Ajit Pawar and he is confident of bringing in 27-29 MLAs. For years now, he has been managing the day-to-day affairs of the party and he funded election expenses of so many of his party MLAs. He has also helped some Congress and Sena legislators,” said a senior BJP leader.
Besides the NCP MLAs, the party is looking at getting maximum independent and smaller party legislators on its side. There are 29 such MLAs, including the eight who had given their support to the Shiv Sena.
With the Sena now focusing on its 56 legislators, BJP leaders said several of the independents who supported the Sena will join the BJP.
“We have support letters of 11 MLAs, but we think ultimately we will get support of 19-20 MLAs in this group, barring members of parties like Samajwadi Party and AIMIM,’’ the leader added.
Getting these legislators on board also meant agreeing to some of their demands, which could include appointment to the public sector undertaking, a ministerial portfolio or a stake in a specific project, he added.
Another BJP leader and former minister said that while the party was not actively looking at Sena and Congress legislators, there were some from these two parties who would prefer to join the government.
The party has identified and sent feelers to MLAs, who they saw as “vulnerable” or inclined to the BJP government, including some of their own party rebels, who had got elected on other party tickets.
However, the BJP-led government’s success depends on whether Ajit Pawar can pull off this coup against his uncle and his party.
“Do you think CM Fadnavis will take such a call of getting sworn-in without being completely sure of the numbers? Pawar is no newbie, he enjoys the trust of many legislators. I met him and he was extremely confident of pulling this off.
Just because NCP legislators are put together in one hotel doesn’t meant they will not vote for the Bharatiya Janata Party. He is in touch with them,” said a western Maharashtra based leader, who met Pawar at his residence on Sunday evening.
Fadnavis, who attended a meeting of all party legislators at Dadar party office,
told them that he was confident of getting a majority in the House.
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