Maharashtra council by-poll: BJP sidesteps Narayan Rane, nominates CM’s aide Prasad Lad
After rounds of meetings and political drama late on Sunday, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) fielded businessman and chief minister Devendra Fadnavis’ close aide, Prasad Lad, for the legislative council by-polls. The by-polls are being held for the seat vacated by former chief minister Narayan Rane, who resigned from the upper house and Congress two months ago. With the Shiv Sena supporting Lad, his victory is a given.
The decision to field Lad was taken after the Shiv Sena opposed Rane’s candidature. The Congress has fielded its former MLA from Solapur, Dilip Mane, who has the support of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and a few smaller parties. Lad and Mane filed their nominations on Monday, in the presence of the senior leaders from both parties.
The decision was taken after the BJP reached an agreement with the Sena on Sunday. Fadnavis held a three-hour-long meeting with senior party leaders, including state unit chief Raosaheb Danve, at his official residence Varsha.
Getting the Sena on board was allegedly a tough task, given the strained relationship between the saffron allies. Lad met Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray at his Bandra residence, Matoshree,to seek his support.
Sources said Sena agreed only after the BJP said it would not upset the support of six poached Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) corporators to the Sena in the civic body. This issue is still unresolved and pending with the divisional commissioner.
Rane, who is waiting to be inducted into the state cabinet, also met the CM at Varsha late on Sunday. He was reportedly assured that his induction would take place after the winter session of the state legislature.
The BJP did not dare back Rane in the council elections after the Sena threatened to join the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) to ensure his defeat.
On Monday, Rane said he fully trusted Fadnavis. He also criticised Thackeray, saying he got the post of the party chief on a platter, owing to the support of the Sainiks.
“I joined the NDA after quitting the Congress, as I trust the assurances made by Fadnavis. I will soon be a legislator. There is no need to wait for the next round of council elections in June,” he said.
Meanwhile, many BJP leaders are reportedly upset with the party’s selection, saying they felt neglected. Many party loyalists were interested in the seat. A few shortlisted candidates include BJP spokesperson Madhav Bhandari, Shaina NC and former legislators Pramod Jathar and Bal Mane.
“We told Rane that there was no point in taking a risk by fielding him now. Instead, we have assured him that he will be fielded during the next round of council elections in June,” said a party leader. “By fielding Lad, we aim to strengthen our base in Sion, Pratiksha Nagar and Chunabhatti, where we have a limited number of corporators, who were elected to the BMC earlier this year. Lad has been given the responsibility of Konkan, a region with a weak party base, and his victory will help us gain strength there.”
State BJP chief Raosaheb Danve said the party will easily win the seat with the support of the Shiv Sena and smaller parties.
The Congress has the support of its own 42 MLAs as well as the NCP’s 41. Congress had a plan B, in case the BJP had fielded Rane. The party had asked Sandesh Parkar to keep his documents ready.
To win the seat, a candidate needs the votes of 145 MLAs, which means the Congress-NCP alliance is far behind the saffron alliance. The BJP claims to have 138 voters in its kitty, with support from independents and smaller parties, in addition to its 122 MLAs.
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