With the embarrassing defeat in Rajya Sabha polls still fresh in their minds and every vote worth its weight in gold, leaders of the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi on Sunday spent their time establishing contacts with independent and small parties MLAs besides keeping their own flock together.
Wary of the ‘Fadnavis Formula’ which took them apart in the Rajya Sabha polls, the MVA is leaving no stone unturned to ensure victory of all its six candidates.
“Our leaders Ajit Pawar and Jayant Patil held one-to-one talks with our MLAs as well as our associate independent and small party MLAs today. They tried to understand their problems during the discussions,” NCP chief whip Anil Patil said.
Senior Congress leaders such as Ashok Chavan and Balasaheb Thorat also held discussions with party MLAs and independent and small party legislators aligned with the party. “We need eight more votes than our own while the BJP needs 20 more. Every vote matters in these elections. Our eight votes will come from our associate MLAs. It is clear that we are ahead. We have corrected the mistakes that we committed during Rajya Sabha polls. We are confident all our six candidates will get elected in the Council polls,” Thorat said.
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Chavan conceded that the BJP succeeded in outsmarting them in the Rajya Sabha polls. “However, the BJP does not have the numbers to win the Council polls. We have good coordination with independent and small party MLAs. Each of our constituents are keen to keep their flock together,” he said.
NCP MLA Rohit Pawar, grandnephew of party chief Sharad Pawar, said in the Rajya Sabha polls, BJP scored over MVA with former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis leading from the front. “We know what BJP is capable of doing. It defeated us in the Rajya Sabha polls by just one vote. Had that one vote been held valid, we would have won. But the BJP succeeded in its gameplan and outdid us. This time, the story is going to be different. The BJP’s overconfidence will lead to its defeat.”
Shiv Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut said the BJP, led by Fadnavis, succeeded in defeating the MVA in Rajya Sabha polls but this time, their conspiracy will not work. “Mr Fadnavis, your conspiracies won’t help you win this time. The state has to be ruled by taking everyone together and not through devious strategies,” he said.
Claiming that BJP’s ego will be crushed in the Council polls, Raut said, “The BJP won one Rajya Sabha seat and is behaving as if it had won the entire Maharashtra. It should wait till Monday and see how its ego is crushed.”
After a meeting of Congress MLAs at a hotel in Mumbai, former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan said the council polls will see a close contest. “We need eight extra votes for our second candidate while the BJP needs 20. The scale is tilted in our favour but the BJP has all the means to lure independent MLAs. Since these elections are to be held through a secret ballot, anything can happen. It is going to be a close fight,” Chavan told The Indian Express late in the evening.
There are 11 candidates in fray for 10 council seats. While the MVA has fielded six candidates, the BJP has nominated five. To get elected to the Legislative Council, each candidate will need 26 votes as two MLAs have been barred from voting while one has passed away. With 106 MLAs in its kitty, the BJP is certain to elect four of its candidates as five independent MLAs are already aligned with it.
On the MVA side, the Shiv Sena, NCP and the Congress have each fielded two candidates. While NCP and Shiv Sena have the numbers to get their two candidates elected, the Congress might find it tough to get its second candidate elected.
Similarly, BJP has a fight on its hands getting its fifth candidate elected.
BJP candidate Ram Shinde claimed all the party candidates will get elected. “We have the numbers to elect four of our candidates. For the fifth candidate, we expect to draw votes from MLAs who are upset with the MVA. They include MLAs of MVA constituents as well as independents and small party MLAs,” he said.
The BJP’s state wing chief Uma Khapre, another BJP candidate, said, “Our party has leaders such as Devendra Fadnavis and Chandrakant Patil who are capable of swinging votes in our favour. In the Rajya Sabha polls, everyone knows what Devendra Fadnavis pulled off. Even NCP chief Sharad Pawar praised him (Fadnavis) for his skillful handling which brought victory to the BJP against all odds. The MVA is wary of Devendra Fadnavis and is, therefore, drawing up various plans to win. But their plans won’t succeed. The Fadnavis formula will outdo them this time too.”
Another top BJP leader Sudhir Mungantiwar, alluding to Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar’s statement, said, “We are not looking for any miracle in this election. We have planned everything to the last detail. We are confident of a repeat of the Rajya Sabha polls. All our candidates will win.”