Attributing Maharashtra Bharatiya Janata Party leader Devendra Fadnavis’ triumph in the recently concluded Rajya Sabha election to political ‘horse-trading’ and ‘interference by Central agencies’, Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut on Sunday said that if the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) had control of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for just two days, then even Mr. Fadnavis and the BJP would have voted for the Sena.
The BJP led by Mr. Fadnavis had rattled the tripartite MVA (of the Shiv Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress) by achieving a surprise victory on the hotly-contested sixth Rajya Sabha seat in the State, which saw the BJP’s Dhananjay Mahadik narrowly beating the Sena’s (MVA’s) candidate Sanjay Pawar by 41 votes to 39. With a number of independent MLAs, who were expected to side with the MVA ultimately voting for the BJP, bitter recriminations ensued after the results on June 11 which were finally declared after a high-voltage, all-night drama.
Mr. Raut ‘named’ no less than six independent MLAs as being responsible for the defeat of the Sena’s candidate, while accusing the BJP at the Centre and the State of ‘misusing Central agencies’ to change the outcome of the results.
“There is no question of our [the Sena] insulting any independent MLA. We have merely expressed our feelings… Even the independents and the BJP are aware of what we are trying to say. If the reins of the ED were given in our [MVA’s] hands for two days, even Devendra Fadnavis will vote for the Shiv Sena,” said Mr. Raut, speaking in Mumbai.
Remarking that the MVA was aware of everything that the Maharashtra BJP leaders were doing “in the middle of the night”, the newly-re-elected Sena MP said: “We know how they [the Maharashtra BJP] were calling the Union Home Department and how the Home Department’s phones were going to the Central Election Commission…we know how they [the BJP] were planning to make votes of MVA leaders to be ‘invalided’.”
Mr. Raut’s remarks against independents has sparked strong resentment among the MLAs, who are expected to queer the pitch for the MVA in the upcoming polls to the Maharashtra Legislative Council on June 20, where the Opposition BJP is said to have a clear edge.
Responding to Mr. Raut, the BJP and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena asked how it was possible that despite the Sena’s claims of Uddhav Thackeray being one of the most popular Chief Ministers in the country, the MVA government’s own MLAs were disgruntled with the Thackeray government.
Accusing Mr. Raut of having violated the code of conduct by naming MLAs who had not voted for the MVA, BJP leader Kirit Somaiya demanded a case be lodged against the Sena leader.
“How did Sanjay Raut and the Shiv Sena come to know so soon [after the results] that which MLAs had not voted for the Sena’s candidate. What does it imply? Was there some setting? What was the Sena’s intention in giving threats to independents?” alleged Mr. Somaiya.
BJP’s Leader of Opposition in the Council Pravin Darekar, too, demanded a complaint be lodged against Mr. Raut for ‘insulting’ independent MLAs, while newly-elected BJP Rajya Sabha MP Anil Bonde censured Mr. Raut for ‘insulting’ independent MLAs by alleging they could be “bought” for a price.
“How can one insult MLAs in this fashion without proof. Only Sanjay Raut can be so foolish as to take names of MLAs. Defamation cases are likely to be filed in the coming days,” said Mr. Bonde.
Meanwhile, Devendra Bhuyar — one of the independent MLAs ‘named’ by Mr. Raut for voting for the BJP – met with NCP chief Sharad Pawar while condemning the Sena MP’s remarks. Mr. Bhuyar, an MLA from Morshi who was formerly with Raju Shetti’s Swabhimani Paksha, had recently tilted towards the NCP and was expected to vote for the MVA.