BJP candidate Prasad Lad bagged the Legislative Council seat Thursday winning 209 out of the total 288 votes. Congress-NCP candidate Dilip Mane polled only 73 votes. With 10 Congress-NCP votes going to Lad, cracks within the Opposition are out in the open, especially ahead of the Winter Session of the state legislature commencing in Nagpur on December 11.
The Legislative Council election was necessitated following the resignation of senior leader Narayan Rane from the Congress and as an MLC a few months ago. The BJP fielded Lad after eliciting support from the Shiv Sena, which was vehemently opposed to Rane’s candidature.
The election for the MLC seat had appeared one-sided from the very beginning, as the BJP candidate, backed by the Sena, already had 185 secured votes. Lad, however, elicited support from 10 Congress-NCP MLAs too, besides 14 votes from smaller parties and independents.
All eyes were on the Opposition unity to see if the Congress and the NCP with their 83 votes would be able to keep their flock together. Almost 24 hours ahead of the polling, top leadership of the Congress and the NCP convened a meeting of its legislators. Leader of the Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil and MPCC president Ashok Chavan emphasised that they should display unity by voting in favour of Mane. While two members from the MIM did not cast vote, three votes were declared invalid. Senior NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal could not exercise his vote as he is in jail.
CM Devendra Fadnavis said, “I congratulate Prasad Lad for his thumping victory. I wish he now works harder to fulfill the aspirations of the people.”
Leaders from both the Congress and the NCP sought to underplay the developments. A Congress leader said, “It is evident that larger number of members representing the NCP has supported the BJP. We have always said the NCP is the B team of the BJP.”
NCP leaders said the result of the lone seat could not be a comment on the BJP’s strength. “Lad had personal rapport with members,” said a leader.
Sena members said party chief Uddhav Thackeray had given clear instructions to all 63 members to vote for Lad.