Maharashtra Legislative Council Elections: BJP candidates sail through, MVA hit by cross-voting in Sena and Congress

In a major blow to the Maha Vikas Aghadi alliance, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Monday swept the state Legislative Council polls by getting all its five candidates – Pravin Darekar, Ram Shinde, Shrikant Bharatiya, Uma Khapre and Prasad Lad elected. On the other hand, the ruling alliance was left red-faced as Congress’ Dalit face, Chandrakant Handore, lost out following cross-voting by at least three MLAs each of Shiv Sena and Congress, and further more from its smaller alliance partners.This is the second consecutive loss for the ruling MVA in a matter of two weeks as the BJP had, on June 10, managed to trump MVA in the Rajya Sabha polls.

The BJP, which had 106 votes in the Assembly, polled 133 votes. The additional 27 votes from other parties and Independents paved the way forward for its victory against MVA, which was more certain of achieving the numbers.

The elections for the 10 Council seats had 11 candidates in fray. While BJP fielded five candidates, Congress, NCP and Shiv Sena fielded two candidates each.

Within the MVA, the two NCP candidates won comfortably. Eknath Khadse (29 votes) and Ramraje Nimbalkar (27 votes) emerged victorious. The NCP, which has 51 MLAs, polled 56 votes.

While Shiv Sena’s two candidates — Amashya Padavi and Sachin Ahir — won the elections by polling the required quota of 26 votes each, the party was left fuming as they saw at least three of their MLAs indulging in cross-voting. Against its total strength of 55 votes, Shiv Sena managed to get only 52 votes, leaving three votes unaccounted for.

The scenario in Congress was worse as none of its two candidates — Bhai Jagtap and Chandrakant Handore — could get through in the first round despite having 44 MLAs. Against 44 votes, their two candidates polled 19 and 22 votes respectively in the first round — making a total of 41 votes.

Though Japtap finally managed to attain the requisite quota during the counting in successive rounds, Handore got only 22 votes.

Talking to the media, opposition leader Devendra Fadnavis, who had planned the BJP’s strategy, said, “The electoral outcome has exposed the in-built conflict within the MVA. The cross-voting within Sena and Congress has shown their members no longer trust the party and government.”

“The BJP had only 106 votes but it got 133 votes. We got 27 additional votes,” he emphasised, adding, “In Rajya Sabha polls, as against 106 votes, we got 123 votes. Now, our tally has been enhanced to 133 votes.”

Shortly after the election results, the Shiv Sena’s celebrations were marred as their political managers learnt about their members cross voting. Several leaders rushed to meet Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray at his residence.

However, Sena leader Sachin Ahir said, “Despite attempts to defeat me, the BJP could not succeed. Both Sena candidates won.”

While expressing happiness over NCP’s victory, state party president Jayant Patil said, “We will have to find out what went wrong within the MVA that led to the defeat of Congress candidate Chandrakant Handore.”

The election results show that within a fortnight, the opposition BJP has stumped the Maha Vikas Aghadi twice. Earlier, on June 10, the BJP secured three of its candidates in the Rajya Sabha as Shiv Sena’s second candidate Sanjay Pawar lost to Dhananjay Mahadik of BJP. The three major MVA partners could win only one seat each.

The two successive victories for the state BJP show their ability of eliciting support from smaller parties and Independents, as well as a tactical vote transfer strategy.

Four BJP candidates — Darekar (29 votes), Shrikant Bharatiya (30 votes), Ram Shinde (30 votes), Uma Khapre (27 vote) – emerged with flying colours in the first round. The fifth candidate, Prasad Lad, polled 17 votes in the first round. In the second round, the surplus 12 votes went to Lad’s quota, taking his tally to 29.

Earlier, amid high drama, counting for Legislative Council polls was delayed for two hours. The Congress took objection to two ailing members of the BJP – Laxman Jagtap and Mukta Tilak — seeking help of their assistants while voting. Both Jagtap and Tilak, who are facing serious health problems, were brought by road ambulance from Pune.

Senior Congress leader Ashok Chavan said, “ Laxman Jagtap and Mukta Tilak signed on the ECI’s register. If they could sign a register, there was no need for an assistant to help them fill the ballot paper. The party has gave a written complain to the returning officer.”

As a result, the matter was referred to the Election Commission office, which overruled the complaint.

As against the total strength of 288 members in the state Legislative Assembly, 285 members voted in the Council polls. A Shiv Sena MLA, Ramesh Latke, passed away last month. Two NCP members — cabinet minister Nawab Malik and former home minister Anil Deshmukh – who are in judicial custody and facing trial for separate money laundering cases, were not allowed to cast their votes.

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