Shiv Sena and BJP will battle it out for the sixth seat of Rajya Sabha from Maharashtra as none of the seven candidates in the fray – four of the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) and three of BJP – withdrew their nomination on Friday.
The election will be held on June 10. This will be for the first time in more than two decades that the state will see election to the Upper House of the Parliament. The last such election was in 1998, where the Congress candidate Ram Pradhan had lost despite the party having enough numbers in its favour.
In 1998, the election was held as per the secret ballot system, while this time the voters (MLAs) will have to show their vote to the party whip before dropping it into the ballot box.
The deadline to withdraw the nominations was 3 pm on Friday. The BJP has fielded Union minister Piyush Goyal, Anil Bonde and former MP Dhananjay Mahadik, while Shiv Sena has put up two candidates – Sanjay Raut and Sanjay Pawar. NCP has renominated Praful Patel, while Congress has fielded Imran Pratapgarhi. The fight for the sixth seat is between BJP’s Mahadik and Sena’s Sanjay Pawar.
Before the deadline ended, a three-member delegation of Maharashtra’s ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) on Friday morning met senior BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis here with a request that his party withdraws its third candidate.
The MVA delegation told Fadnavis that the BJP can take one additional seat in the biennial Legislative Council elections to 10 seats scheduled later this month if it withdraws its third candidate for the Rajya Sabha polls. But the BJP remained firm on fielding the third candidate with Fadnavis giving a counter-offer to the three-party combine in the state. State Food and Civil Supplies Minister and senior NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal told PTI that he met Fadnavis along with Sunil Kedar of the Congress and Anil Desai of the Shiv Sena.
“We proposed that BJP withdraws its third candidate to facilitate an unopposed election to the Rajya Sabha and in return can take one additional seat to the Legislative Council, where biennial elections to 10 seats are scheduled later this month,” Bhujbal said.
“But Fadnavis gave a counter-offer saying the MVA withdraw its fourth candidate for Rajya Sabha and take an additional seat for the Legislative Council. So election to Rajya Sabha looks inevitable after two decades. The fight will be between Shiv Sena’s Sanjay pawar and BJP’s third candidate Dhananjay Mahadik,” he said, adding one candidate of Sena, NCP and Congress are safe as the whip is binding on them and violation attracts disqualification.
They will have to show their vote on the ballot paper to the party whip before dropping it into the box, Bhujbal said.
Maharashtra BJP president Chandrakant Patil said the party’s top leadership supported the decision to contest the third Rajya Sabha seat from the state, rejecting the three-party MVA’s proposal to field only two candidates.
Speaking to reporters before the deadline to withdraw nominations got over, Patil said, “There is no precedence in BJP to withdraw a nomination. We have our own calculations, which is why we decided to field the third candidate. If MVA wants to avoid voting, it should withdraw one of its candidate.” “There was a proposal to give three seats to BJP in this Rajya Sabha election, while in the next election of Maharashtra legislative council, BJP will field only four candidates. They (MVA) offered us a fifth seat in the upper house of state legislature, but demanded that we should contest only two seats in the RS polls,” he said.
The party leaders in the state discussed this offer with the central leadership, but it was decided to contest three seats, Patil added.
The 288-member Legislative Assembly is the electoral college for the Rajya Sabha election. Shiv Sena has 55 MLAs, NCP 53, Congress 44 and BJP 106. Bahujan Vikas Aghadi three, Samajwadi Party, AIMIM, Prahar Janshakti Party two each, CPI(M), MNS, PWP, Swabhimani Party, Rashtriya Samaj Party, Jansurajya Party, Krantikari Shetkari Party one each, independends 13 and there is one vacancy due to the death of one Sena MLA Ramesh Latke recently. Two of NCP MLAs – Nawab Malik and Anil Deshmukh – are in jail.
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