Arunkumar Bhatt

MUMBAI: The Congress, which was sure of getting all of its three candidates elected in Wednesday’s polling for nine seats of the Maharashtra Legislative Council, got a jolt when its most secure candidate, Sudhakar Gangane, considered close to Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh got defeated.

The Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) each had fielded three candidates and the Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party put up two each. One needed 29 votes to win since the Electoral College, the Assembly, has 289 seats.

Most observers were certain that the losing tenth nominee would from the Shiv Sena for among its 56 members, six were supporters of Narayan Rane who had split from the party about three years ago. Its second candidate was expected to get only 21 first preference votes.

The Congress, having 75 seats of its own, counted on 11 independents, three Communist Party of India (Marxist) members and one nominated member. Each of its three candidates had a comfort margin of one vote. But the candidates of its ally, the NCP, were not so comfortable.

But the Congress had left nothing to chance. Union Minister Vyalar Ravi and the All India Congress Committee secretary, Siddharth Patel, attended a party dinner with the MLAs. The Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee president, Prabha Rau, had a meeting with the independents.

Sena’s ‘united’ bid

To keep its flock together, the Sena had taken all of its MLAs to party supremo Bal Thackeray’s residence and then to a hotel. Also the party did outsource the extra support that it badly needed. Counting in the evening revealed that it was not the Sena’s Kiran Pavaskar but Mr. Gangane who lost as the former made it in the second round.

All eight other victors — including the council Chairman Shivajirao Deshmukh — made it in the first round. Thus the NCP and BJP though short of 29 votes for their candidates — three and two respectively — secured them in the first round.

The Congressmen who have always been suspicious of Union Agriculture Minister and NCP leader Sharad Pawar also blamed the NCP for “spiriting away” half of the independents from its side to get its three candidates elected.