The elections to fill eight Legislative Council seats to be elected by local bodies in Maharashtra have thrown up several combinations, and money is reportedly coming into play.
Corporators, which form the electoral college, are set to throw up keen contests. The polls are to be held on December 27. The most intense battle is for two seats under Mumbai local body.
Shiv Sena’s Ramdas Kadam, a cabinet minister in the Maharashtra government, and Congress’s Ashok (Bhai) Jagtap are seeking renomination. Politics around this election has became intense with NCP leader Prasad Lad entering the fray independently. Lad entered the race even as NCP joined hands with the Congress for the polls, which has led to confusion and suspicion among the Congress ranks. The BJP, which contested the last time, is not entering the race.
There was speculation of money being used as inducement to split votes of opponents and offers of Rs 10 lakh to Rs 25 lakh were allegedly being made to corporators from smaller parties and independents, sources said.
To avoid a split, all major parties are keeping their flock together. The Shiv Sena has sent its corporators to Retreat Resort in Madh Island. The party has also booked additional rooms to host BJP corporators expected to join them on Saturday.
The Congress had earlier packed off its corporators to the Deltin Hotel in Daman. While the corporators returned to the city on Friday, sources said all of them have been asked to reunite at ITC Grand Maratha in Mumbai on Saturday. The Congress is wary of a tacit understanding between the NCP and the BJP to defeat Jagtap. Congress has 53 corporators and needs the support of all the 14 corporators from the NCP to stand a chance of sailing through.
A candidate would need 68 votes to win if Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena remains firm on its decision of staying away from the polls.
The Shiv Sena is confident of a victory for Kadam since it has 76 corporators of its own besides 13 independents in support. Congress’s Mumbai chief Sanjay
Nirupam said the party was confident that all its 53 corporators will vote in Jagtap’s favour. Jagtap would need another 15 votes to sail through.
“All our votes are intact. We will sail through with NCP’s support,” Nirupam said.
NCP sources said NCP chief Sharad Pawar had a telephonic talk with Maharashtra Congress chief Ashok Chavan on Friday and assured that corporators of his party will vote in Congress’s favour. But the Congress is taking no chances. On Saturday, senior leaders from both parties will jointly address corporators from both sides at ITC. “We will vote for the Congress,” said NCP’s Mumbai chief Sachin Ahir.
Sources said BJP was exploring options of diverting some votes from its own camp and that from the Shiv Sena to Lad to upset the Congress.
Besides Mumbai, elections will be held under local bodies in Solapur, Ahmednagar, Akola-Washim-Buldhana, Kolhapur, Dhule-Nandurbar, and Nagpur. The NCP requires Congress’s backing to retain the Solapur and Ahmednagar seats.