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How BJP is using Rajya Sabha and Maharashtra MLC polls to bring ‘MVA cracks’ to the fore

Going by its 106 MLAs in 288-member assembly, BJP can comfortably win 2 of 6 RS seats on 10 June, but it has fielded 3 candidates. A similar gambit has been made for MLC polls.

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Mumbai: Halfway into the five-year term of the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition in Maharashtra, the opposition BJP is attempting to corner the Uddhav Thackeray-led alliance by indirectly forcing it to prove its strength in the assembly.

The BJP is trying to play on the inherent insecurities of the MVA — comprising former ideological rivals Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress — using the Rajya Sabha and Member of Legislative Council (MLC) elections. As a gambit, it has fielded more candidates than it has the strength to get elected in both the polls.

Going by its 106 MLAs in the 288-member assembly, the BJP can comfortably win 2 of the 6 Rajya Sabha seats on 10 June, but it has fielded 3 candidates. Similarly, the BJP has the strength to get 4 members elected in the legislative council, but has fielded 5 candidates for the MLC election on 20 June.

Both the elections will effectively test the MVA’s strength in the Maharashtra assembly for the first time since the trust vote in November 2019. The MLC election will be especially tricky as it is a secret ballot, unlike the Rajya Sabha polls, where MLAs will have to show their vote to the party whip before putting it in the ballot box.

All this has pushed the MVA, which has had its fair share of internal rifts and friction, to tightly hold its MLAs together.

Political commentator Hemant Desai said that the BJP’s attempts to needle the MVA have only brought the three allies more strongly together.

“The BJP’s attempt was to put the MVA in a state of chaos, but it is not exactly playing out the way it expected. Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray is leaving no stone unturned in securing the support for the MVA candidates in the elections and seems quite confident,” he added.

Also Read: ‘Panic & unrest’ in Maharashtra Congress as outsider Pratapgarhi who lost 2019 polls gets RS nod

The hustle for numbers

Seven candidates have thrown their hat in the ring for six Rajya Sabha seats in Maharashtra. While the BJP can comfortably win two, the Shiv Sena, the NCP and the Congress — with 56, 53 and 44 legislators, respectively — can win one each with a few surplus votes.

The fight is between the BJP and the Shiv Sena for the sixth seat. To win the Rajya Sabha election, a candidate will need 42 votes. The BJP will be left with 22 surplus votes after getting its two candidates elected. All three MVA parties together have 26 surplus votes.

Crucial here for both the Shiv Sena and the BJP will be the support from 13 Independent MLAs and 16 legislators from smaller parties. The BJP has fielded its third candidate, Dhananjay Mahadik, against Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Pawar.

As NCP MLAs Anil Deshmukh and Nawab Malik are in prison, the MVA is trying to get them voting rights.

On Tuesday evening, the MVA put up a show of strength at south Mumbai’s Trident Hotel, similar to the one it had hosted in November 2019 at Grand Hyatt ahead of the government formation in Maharashtra.

Sources from all three MVA parties told ThePrint that 12 Independent legislators and MLAs from smaller parties also attended the meeting, and that Thackeray expressed confidence about the MVA’s victory.

The sources said that the ruling alliance requested the BJP to withdraw its third candidate and let the election be unopposed, but the opposition party did not pay heed. Both the MVA and the BJP have ring-fenced their MLAs, putting them up at five-star hotels in Mumbai ahead of the Friday’s Rajya Sabha election.

As for the Maharashtra Legislative Council election, the BJP can wrest four seats, while the Shiv Sena, the NCP and the Congress can get two seats each. Pravin Y. Darekar, Shrikant Bhartiya, Uma G. Khapre, Ram S. Shinde and Prasad M. Lad are the five candidates
of the BJP.

Also Read: Sena also ‘settling scores through agencies’? How BMC notices to opponents bear party’s stamp

‘Horse-trading attempts will have no impact’

On Wednesday, the BJP summoned all its MLAs to a five-star hotel in south Mumbai.

“Ours is not a show of strength. The Rajya Sabha election is a little tedious because it runs on preferential voting, so this is a workshop for our MLAs. Only those who are scared will call their MLAs in advance, change hotels, and make tall claims. We know we are going to win, so we are maintaining a low profile,” Maharashtra BJP president Chandrakant Patil told reporters,

Patil claimed all three candidates — Anil Bonde, Piyush Goyal and Dhananjay Mahadik — will win the Rajya Sabha polls. The picture for the MLC polls may change after the Rajya Sabha result, he added.

Meanwhile, Maharashtra minister Chhagan Bhujbal, too, claimed that the MVA will comfortably win the Rajya Sabha as well as the MLC polls.

“For the MLC election, the Congress, the NCP, and the Shiv Sena will have two MLCs each. The BJP will get four of the 10 vacant seats. But as it can be seen, the BJP has fielded five candidates instead of four. Like the Rajya Sabha election, which has led to a poll-type atmosphere with all parties working, we will have to start preparing and throwing all our weight for the MLC election,” Bhujbal told reporters Wednesday.

“Nobody is going to fall for any horse-trading. All MLAs of the NCP, the Congress and the Shiv Sena as well as smaller parties and Independents supporting us will honestly stay with the MVA,” the NCP leader claimed.

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