Elections for eight legislative council seats in Maharashtra will be held on Sunday amid talks of money power allegedly coming into play and parties busy with poll mathematics and political parleys.
The elections, where corporators constitute the electoral college, are set to throw up keen contests.
The most intense battle is for two seats from Mumbai local body constituency. Shiv Sena’s Ramdas Kadam, a cabinet minister in the Maharashtra government, and Congress’s Ashok (Bhai) Jagtap are seeking renomination to the upper house. Politics has intensified after NCP leader Prasad Lad entered the fray as an independent even as NCP has tied up with the Congress for the polls.
The BJP has not put up any candidate. There is a buzz that money was being used to split votes of opponents. Corporators from smaller parties and independents were allegedly being offered Rs 10 lakh to Rs 25 lakh, sources confirmed.
All major parties were trying to keep their flock together. The Shiv Sena and the BJP had a joint meeting with corporators in Madh’s Retreat Resort, and the Congress and the NCP held parleys with corporators at Mumbai’s ITC Grand Maratha.
The Congress is wary of any tacit understanding between the NCP and the BJP to defeat Jagtap. Congress has 54 corporators and needs the support of all the 14 corporators from NCP to sail through.
On Saturday, the NCP assured Congress that its corporators will vote for Jagtap. Sources said the Congress threatened to foil NCP’s chances in Solapur and Ahmednagar, where the latter has fielded candidates, if NCP hurts them in Mumbai. The elections are on Sunday.
A candidate would need 68 votes to win if Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena remains firm on staying away from the polls.
The Shiv Sena is confident of a victory for Kadam since it has 76 corporators besides 13 independents in support. Congress’s Mumbai chief Sanjay Nirupam said the party was confident of all its 54 corporators voting in Jagtap’s favour. Jagtap would need at least 14 more votes to be in the race.
“All our votes are intact. We will sail through with NCP’s support,” Nirupam said. Sources said that the Congress had also set base with corporators from the Samajwadi Party and independents.
“We will vote for Congress in Mumbai,” said NCP’s Mumbai chief Sachin Ahir.
Reliable sources said the BJP is exploring options to upset the Congress in Mumbai by diverting some voters from its own camp and that from ally Shiv Sena to Lad.
The Congress had won four of the eight seats last time whereas the NCP and the Shiv Sena held two each.