Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and eight other candidates in the fray for the May 21 polls to the state legislative Council are set to get elected to the Upper House unopposed after five out of the 14 nominations were either withdrawn or rejected over technical ground Tuesday. A formal announcement of the election will be made Thursday.
Earlier this month, the Election Commission had announced the Legislative Council polls for nine seats after Thackeray approached Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking his intervention to avoid the constitutional crisis in the state. Thackeray, who was sworn in as the CM on November 28 last year, has to become a member of either Houses of the state legislature by May 27.
On Tuesday, four candidates — the BJP’s Sandeep Lele and Ajit Gopchade and NCP’s Kiran Pawaskar and Shivajirao Garje — withdrew their nominations, while papers of Independent candidate Shehbaz Rathod were found invalid during scrutiny, officials at the Chief Electoral Office said.
With this, Shiv Sena’s Thackeray and Neelam Gorhe, NCP’s Shashikant Shinde and Amol Mitakri, Congress’s Rajesh Rathod and BJP’s Gopichand Padalkar, Pravin Datke, Ranjitsinh Mohite Patil and Ramesh Karad are in the fray.
“All the nine candidates are set to be announced as elected unopposed on Thursday,” said an official, adding that a notification would be issued subsequently by the CEO stating about their election and completion of the election process.
Interestingly, the BJP withdrew the nomination of Ajit Gopchade, whose name was announced by the central leadership, and replaced him with Ramesh Karad, a close confidante of late Gopinath Munde and his daughter former minister Pankaja Munde.
While Pankaja had wanted the seat herself, but her relations with both BJP state president Chandrakant Patil and former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, had gone downhill since the time of the Assembly election when she accused the top state leadership of the BJP of sabotaging her election, even though both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah held public rallies in her constituency.
With its last-minute decision to nominate Karad, the BJP leadership appears to have signalled that it is prepared to accommodate the Gopinath Munde camp, but without his daughter.
State BJP leaders, however, tried to underplay the developments. Party’s state president Chandrakant Patil said, “The party takes a collective decision taking into consideration what is best for the organisation. The changes in candidate is not something new. It has happened in the past across party lines. Moreover, seats are not anybody’s private property but it belongs to the party.”
Dismissing differences within the organisation, he said, “Every individual has a role in the organisation. Therefore, there was no question of undermining anybody or denying them their right to work in the organisation.”
Pankaja, who had taken to Twitter over the last two days to express disappointment at being denied a Council seat, has been mum since the latest development. “The BJP leaders may have been forced to change the candidate, yet she could not make it to the Council,” a party source said.
Karad twice contested from Latur Rural constituency and lost. In 2018, he had joined NCP and was a candidate for state council. But he quit NCP and returned to BJP. He was then promised a seat in the legislative council. Karad is the nephew of education baron Vishwanath Karad based in Pune.
Aside from Pankaja, senior leaders Eknath Khadse, Chandrashekhar Bawankule and Vinod Tawde were also hoping to find seats in the Council, but got left out.
In a scathing attack against the state BJP president, Khadse said, “There is lot of injustice done against loyal workers. In 2019 Assembly polls, sitting member Medha Kulkarni was denied the ticket to make way for Patil. At least party should have given her a Council seat. What is the logic of denying Assembly and Council seats to leaders worked for the party. Not one of us were consulted or considered for Council.”
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