Bharatiya Janata Party's Dhananjay Mahadik has won the sixth seat of Rajya Sabha from Maharashtra, defeating Shiv Sena candidate Sanjay Pawar in the second preferential vote. After a long night of objections and counter objections over voting from both sides, the BJP clinched the prestigious Rajya Sabha seat in Maharashtra. The verdict in the wee hours of Saturday is also an alarm bell for the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) alliance as legislative council elections are scheduled on June 20.
An Assembly with the strength of 287 (one minus, as Shiv Sena MLA Ramesh Latake died recently) had to elect six RS seats. The BJP could have won two seats easily with its strength of 106. Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress won one each with the respective strengths of 56, 53, and 44. The quota for the first preferential vote was 42. The last sixth seat was crucial as the BJP claimed it had more votes than Sena. But Shiv Sena was keen to get the sixth seat, which pushed the state into elections.
As the results are out, BJP's Piyush Goyal and Anil Bonde have won with 48 votes; Praful Patel of NCP with 43, Imran Pratapgarhi of Congress with 44, and Shiv Sena's Sanjay Raut with 41. The quota came down to 41 after a long night of objections and counter objections in the Election Commission's court in New Delhi. BJP had objected that three members of the MVA - Jitendra Awhad of NCP, Yahsomati Thakur of Congress and Suhas Kande of Shiv Sena showed their ballot papers to others. So, the BJP asked to terminate all three votes. After checking video footage and analysing it for eight hours, the EC asked the returning officer to cancel one vote of Suhas Kande. So, the winning quota came down to 41 votes.
Shiv Sena's Sanjay Pawar got 33 votes in the first round, whereas BJP's Dhananjay Mahadik got 27 votes. With the strength of BJP, Dhananjay was only supposed to get 13 votes. But, the BJP succeeded in getting 14 votes from the MVA camp. It is being said that almost all independent and smaller parties - excluding the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (1 vote) and the Samajwadi Party (2 votes) could have gone with the BJP. As counting needed a second round and preferential votes, the extra seven votes of Goyal and Bonde (total 14) went into Mahadik's basket. So, Mahadik got 14.80 votes as per the valuation of those extra votes, whereas Sanjay Pawar could get only 6.80. As a result, Mahadik won.
The MVA faced a setback from not just the EC but from the court as well, which barred two of its MLAs - Anil Deshmukh and Nawab Malik - from voting in the election. Many called this decision 'unbelievable' as voting is a fundamental right. But this leads to the loss of two votes. So, Suhas Kande's one plus these two votes cost three votes of first preference to MVA.
"This is a historic victory for our party. Many thought we were contesting the election just for its sake. But it wasn't so. We were sure of our victory. People's will has reflected from the voting of MLAs in this election," said Devendra Fadnavis after the results.
In RS voting, MLA of the party needs to cast his vote by showing the ballot paper to the polling agent of his party. But legislative council elections are done with a secret ballot.
Saturday's results of RS could impact the upcoming MLC polls. Not just independent MLAs but also MLAs of all the parties - Sena, NCP and Congress could exploit the situation to express their dissatisfaction with the government.
Experts believe these results could also close cracks within the MVA. "Defeats always lead to suspicion. Independents who voted for BJP this time are close to leaders of both Sena and NCP. If this voting pattern continues in the MLC elections, then it will harm the stability of this government," said Padmabhushan Deshpande, senior journalist from Mumbai.
Maharashtra is also going for 14 municipalities, 17 zilla parishad, and more than 100 municipal council elections in the next three months. The RS win is a morale booster for the BJP ahead of these elections. "Even if this defeat won't affect government, the perception of it being politically weak won't change easily. Ultimately it kills the enthusiasm of workers on the ground. The MVA need to re-calibrate itself to survive," said senior journalist Vijay Chormare.
The defeat is also a big shock for Shiv Sena. The party losing associated MLAs despite having its chief as CM will have a major impact on the Sena. "This was a prestige battle for Sena and Uddhav Thackeray himself. Losing grip on state politics despite having a CM post is not a normal thing. This won't be taken easily by Sena's leadership. We will see big happening within Sena in the next few days," said Prakash Akolkar, a senior journalist who has covered the Sena for the last 30 years.
The MVA has completed half of its tenure. It is actually a political experiment where almost opposite ideological parties have joined hands. They are expecting to repeat it all over India to keep the BJP out of power. But such results could harm that possibility. Thus, one RS defeat could have a more significant impact on politics.