In what turned out to be a day of twists and turns, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) trumped over Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) by winning three out six seats in a fiercely contested battle for Rajya Sabha which witnessed a delay of over nine hours to start counting as a result of demands to cancel votes, appeal for the same to the central election commission and micro-management by the BJP which helped it to win this battle of prestige.
The results also show that the BJP has managed to snatch at least nine votes from the MVA. Independents and smaller parties which had earlier pledged allegiance to the MVA seem to have backtracked on the word and voted for the BJP. The results also pave the way for yet another battle on June 20 for the state council polls. A confident BJP is unlikely to go on defensive for the upcoming council polls.
On Friday, MVA suffered a shock after the court refused to grant permission to two of the jailed MLAs of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), namely Nawab Malik and Anil Deshmukh, to vote for the election. With death of one of the Sena MLAs the ruling MVA was already facing the tough task of achieving the quota of 41 and the situation turned grave for the MVA with Central Election Commission invalidating one vote of Sena MLA.
Seven candidates were in the fray for six seats from Maharashtra with BJP staking claim on three seats while the MVA had fielded four candidates. The battle for sixth seat was between Sena’s Sanjay Pawar and BJP’s Dhananjay Mahadik. In the first round, Imran Pratapgarhi of Congress (44 votes), NCP’s Praful Patel (43), Sena’s Sanjay Raut (42) and BJP’s Piyush Goyal and Anil Bonde (48 votes each) were declared winners.
The quota for the victory was of 41. Mr. Pawar and Mr. Mahadik won 33 and 27 seats respectively of first choice. Mr. Mahadik received seven extra votes each from Mr. Goyal and Mr. Bonde in second round, ensuring his victory.
Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis who scripted the victory of BJP’s third candidate said that his party had decided to contest the election to win it and not for the sake of contesting.
The result came after Central Election Commission declared vote of Shiv Sena MLA Suhas Kande as invalid following the complaint made by opposition BJP. This was the fourth vote on which MVA lost. Earlier, court had declined permission to vote to arrested NCP MLAs Anil Deshmukh and Nawab Malik. Sena MLA Ramesh Latke’s death had reduced Sena’s strength.
Counting of votes for the election was delayed by over eight hours after BJP approached the central election commission against the decision of Returning Officer (RO) in Maharashtra who refused to cancel the votes of three MLAs of the MVA on a complaint by the BJP. The Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) too, by late evening, approached Delhi taking objection against voting of BJP MLA Sudhir Mungantiwar and BJP-affiliated-independent MLA Ravi Rana over identical reasons.
The CEC in its order found that only Mr. Kande violated the voting procedure based on the study of video footage submitted to it. The CEC however accepted the RO’s decision with respect to other four MLAs, two each from MVA and BJP.
Earlier in the day, all four parties ensured that the MLAs who had been kept at the hotels and resorts for last three days were brought to the legislative building in specially arranged buses. NCP MLA Dattatraya Bharne was the first voter and as per the strategy all three parties of the MVA voted turnwise.
Two ailing BJP MLAs, namely Laxman Jagtap and Mukta Tilak were brought in ambulances to vote. Bahujan Vikas Aghadi (BVA) which has three MLAs and had kept cards hidden till today said that they won’t disclose their choice but they have voted for the winning side. “I can only tell you that our votes have gone to the winning side,” said Hitendra Thakur, BVA MLA.