After the Shiv Sena expressed its displeasure over ally Congress fielding a second candidate in the May 21 Legislative Council polls, the Congress on Sunday decided to withdraw its candidate to make way for Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and eight others to get elected unopposed.
“The Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) wanted to contests six seats. But considering the Covid-19 crisis, it is difficult to bring all MLAs to Mumbai for the voting. The chief minister himself is a candidate in the polls. He has requested us that the candidates should win unopposed. So, considering all aspects, the MVA will now field five candidates,” said Balasaheb Thorat, state Congress president and Revenue Minister after a meeting with senior leaders from his party, Sena and NCP.
With this, while MVA has fielded candidates on five seats, BJP is contesting four seats. With no other candidate in fray, all the nine candidates are set to be elected unopposed.
The meeting was attended by Congress minister Ashok Chavan, NCP ministers Ajit Pawar and Jayant Patil as well as Shiv Sena ministers Eknath Shinde and Anil Parab. Sena MP Sanjay Raut and party secretary Milind Narvekar were also present.
“Honouring the chief minister’s request, Congress has agreed to withdraw its second candidate. So, the candidates would win unopposed,” said Raut.
Earlier in the day, Raut had told mediapersons that Uddhav would not like to contest the polls if it was not going to be unopposed. “We want candidates to win the polls unopposed. Many people are walking on the streets and there are issues of their livelihood. It will be a blot on Maharashtra’s tradition if we, all political parties, are not able to get the candidates elected unopposed. Thackeray is uneasy because of this. He wants to contest polls only if it is going to be unopposed,” he had said.
The Election Commission has announced the Legislative Council polls for nine seats in Maharashtra days after Uddhav approached Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking his intervention to avoid a constitutional crisis in the state. Uddhav, who was sworn in as CM on November 28, 2019, has to become member of either houses of state legislature by May 27.
Sena’s Uddhav and Neelam Gorhe, NCP’s Shashikant Shinde and Amol Mitkari and Congress’ Rajesh Rathod will file their nominations on Monday. BJP’s Ranjitsinh Mohite Patil, Gopichand Padalkar, Pravin Datke and Ajit Gopchade have filed their nominations on Friday.
Sources said that as per the initial plan, Sena and NCP would have contested two seats and Congress one seat, considering each party’s strength in the Assembly. The BJP would have contested four seats. While the Congress’ central leadership announced one candidate, the state unit announced another on Saturday, leading to differences of opinion among the three allies.
Sources said that while state Congress leadership was of the view that MVA can win the sixth seat, Sena didn’t want to take any chance considering Uddhav is in the fray. “Congress, a smaller ally in MVA with less number of seats compared to Sena and NCP, wanted to show that it has not surrendered to the other two allies. So, it announced a second candidate to underline their importance,” said a source.