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BJP raises tensions in RS polls, fields Vijaya Rahatkar as its fourth candidate

Tuesday, March 13, 2018
By Prashant Hamine

In a bid to raise tensions in the opposition Congress, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) camps in the run up to the March 23 biennial elections to the six Rajya Sabha seats from Maharashtra, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) fielded its fourth candidate in the fray in the form of State Womens Commission Chairperson Vijaya Rahatkar.

On the last day of filing nomination papers yesterday, BJPs former Kerala unit chief V Muralidharan, Narayan Rane (on BJP ticket) and veteran scribe Kumar Ketkar (Congress) filed their nomination papers along with Rahatkar. Vandana Chavan (NCP), BJPs Union Human Resources Development Minister Prakash Javadekar and Shiv Senas Anil Desai have already filed their nomination papers earlier.

Although the tragic demise of sitting Congress MLA and former minister Dr Patangrao Kadam and the seventh candidate being currently in the fray, it has slightly reduced the required quota of first preference votes slightly under 42 votes to win the elections, it still means any candidate winning will have to poll 42 first preference votes. Moreover, the voting in the Rajya Sabha elections is by open ballot. That is the voting MLAs will have to show their vote cast to their respective election agents. Refusing to disclose their vote or casting their vote against the party whip will invite provisions of Anti-Defection and disqualification from contesting any elections for next six years.

Given the fact that the BJP has 122 votes (MLAs) in the lower house, as it is the BJP needs four more votes to get its third candidate elected. In order to get all its four candidates elected it shall require 168 votes, 46 more votes. Sources disclosed that the Sena might well consider jacking up the quota of votes allocated to Anil Desai from 42  to say 50 or 55 votes, leaving at best 10 votes out of its 21 surplus that it has for the BJP. Moreover, the Sena is highly unlikely to transfer its surplus votes to BJP candidate and its arch rival Narayan Rane.

That still leaves the BJP short of about 36 votes, which will be a tall order and require two-thirds of opposition MLAs defecting and voting for the BJP, which seems a tall order. Sources in the BJP argued that Rahatkar's candidature is a “dummy candidature” and has been filed just in case any problem arises with the nomination papers of its other three candidates. Scrutiny of nomination papers will be taken up today, while the last date for withdrawal of nomination papers is March 15. Polling will be held on March 23.

Sources in the Congress disclosed that although their vote share has declined due to the demise of its sitting MLA Dr Patangrao Kadam, it has been assured of support by Samajwadi Party, MIM, PWP-I, BBM and others to meet the required quota of 42 votes. On the issue of two rebel Congress MLAs Rane seniors own sons Nitesh Rane and Kalidas Kolambkar, the senior Congress leader argued that they might not like to invite the risk of being disqualification if they chose to defy the party whip and vote for the BJP candidate. The senior Congress leader opined that in all probability the Rajya Sabha elections will be “uncontested” and that the BJP ultimately will have to withdraw its fourth candidate from the poll fray as it simply does not have the votes in its kitty.

Given the numerical strength of the ruling BJP-Sena combine and the opposition Congress-NCP, the BJP can manage to bag three seats and the Sena, Congress and NCP can win one seat each. If the BJP and Sena form an alliance then along with the Independents and smaller parties they can have 205 votes. Whereas, the opposition Congress-NCP combine with the support of like-minded smaller parties have a total vote share of 87 votes.

While the current partywise strength in the 288 member Legislative Assembly is as follows: BJP 122, Sena 63, Congress 41 (1 vacant), NCP 41, PWP-I 3, BVA 3, MIM 2, MNS 1, Samajwadi Party 1, BBMC 1, CPI-M 1, RSP 1, Independents 7 and Nominated 1 (vacant). The current partywise strength of the 19 Rajya Sabha seats from Maharashtra is as follows: NCP 5, BJP 5, Congress 4, Sena 3, RPI-A 1 and Independent 1.

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