Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and the other nominees are set to be elected unopposed to the Maharashtra Legislative Council after the Congress party decided to contest for only one seat and withdrew its second nominee. Though the party’s high command had announced the nomination of Rajesh Rathod, its state leaders unilaterally decided to field Papa Modi on Saturday night. However, backchannel diplomacy initiated by Thackeray’s close confidant worked, as the party took a U-turn the next day and decided not to contest for the second seat.
Had Congress, with 44 members, stuck to keep its second nominee, the polling would have taken place on May 21. May 11, is the last date for nomination and May 14 is the last date for withdrawal.
Of the nine seats, Shiv Sena’s nominees are Thackeray and Neelam Gorhe. The Nationalist Congress Party’s (NCP) nominees are Shashikant Shinde and Amol Mitkari. Congress’ candidate is Rajesh Rathod and Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) nominees are Ranjit Sinh Mohite Patil, Gopichand Padalkar, Praveen Datke and Ajit Gopchhade. They will each file nomination on Monday and will be declared unopposed. Shiv Sena and NCP will win 2 each, Congress one and BJP four seats.
Congress party’s decision to field a second nominee had created tension within the Maha Vikas Aghadi.
A Shiv Sena minister told FPJ, “Thackeray clarified to the Congress party that he had no problem if the party decided on one more seat to take on BJP. However, his message was that the party should be confident to shore necessary numbers without encouraging horse trading. Ultimately, Congress preferred not to make it a prestige issue and opted out of contesting for the second seat.’’ He said Thackeray was quite keen to have an unopposed election, especially during the present COVID-19 crisis.
Revenue Minister and Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee president Balasaheb Thorat said the party has responded to Thackeray's request and decided to settle for one nominee. ''The election would have been possible had there not been the COVID-19 pandemic. But it would have been difficult to have polling, especially by bringing legislators to Mumbai in the present crisis. Therefore, Congress chose to keep one nominee only,'' he noted.
Shiv Sena Member of the Parliament Sanjay Raut in his tweet thanked Thorat and Public Works Minister Ashok Chavan for the Congress party’s decision to withdraw the second nominee from the fray. “’The election for nine seats will be unopposed,’’ he said.
Of the 288 members, Shiv Sena has 56 legislators, NCP 54, and Congress 44, while the 16 smaller parties and independents are supporting the Sena-led Maha Vikas Aghadi. On the other hand, BJP has 105 legislators with the support of 6 independents, while there are seven who are from small parties and independents. For the election of the nine seats, a quota of 29 votes was necessary.
Thackeray is currently not a member of either house and his six months as Maharashtra CM comes to an end on May 28. He had to become a member of the council before May 27. The state government had twice recommended his nomination in the upper house, but Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari refused to clear it. Thereafter, on the request of the governor and the state government, the Election Commission scheduled the election on May 21.