If a local court in Mumbai allows former Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh and minister Nawab Malik to cast their votes in the June 10 Rajya Sabha elections, the two leaders will be brought to the Vidhan Bhavan, the state Legislature complex here, at a specific time to take part in the voting process, an official said here on Wednesday.
Also, senior BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis, who has tested COVID-19 positive a couple days ago, will have to cast his vote towards the end of the voting procedure if he continues to remain infected, he said.
Deshmukh and Malik, both NCP leaders who are currently lodged in jail in connection with different money laundering cases, had sought temporary bail from a special court last week to vote in the RS polls. However, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) had on Tuesday opposed their bail pleas, citing that they don’t have the right to vote under the Representation of the People Act.
A special court here on Wednesday reserved the order on one day bail pleas of Deshmukh and Malik to allow them to cast their vote in the elections to the Upper House of Parliament.
Voting for the six Rajya Sabha seats from Maharashtra will take place between 9 am and 4 pm. The ruling Shiv Sena has fielded two candidates, its Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) allies NCP and Congress have nominated one candidate each, while the opposition BJP has put up three candidates. The contest for the sixth seat lies between BJP’s Dhananjay Mahadik and Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Pawar.
The 288-member Maharashtra Legislative Assembly is the electoral college for the Rajya Sabha election, where seven candidates are in fray. If Deshmukh and Malik are not allowed to vote, the number of votes will come down to 285 as there is already one vacancy due to the death of Shiv Sena MLA Ramesh Latke recently.
An official of the state legislature secretariat said if the Deshmukh and Malik are allowed to vote, they will be brought from the prison at a specific time.
In the past, when senior NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal, who is currenly the food and civil supplies minister, was in jail on money laundering charges, he was brought to Vidhan Bhavan to cast his vote for the Presidential election in 2017.
The special court had allowed Bhujbal to vote when he approached it seeking its directive to let him vote citing that it was his constitutional right as a member of the state assembly.
The then jail superintendent and Mumbai police commissioner were asked to take appropriate steps for producing him at the place of polling with sufficient police escort. After casting his vote he shall immediately be taken back to the jail, the court order had stated.
Meanwhile, when asked how Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Devendra Fadnavis, who has tested positive for COVID-19, would vote, the official said COVID-19 positive people will be asked to cast their vote after all other voters have exercised their franchise.
In 2020, a Congress MLA in Madhya Pradesh was among the last leaders to come to cast his vote for the Rajya Sabha election after all other MLAs had voted. The infected legislator had execised his franchise wearing a PPE kit.
An aide of Fadnavis said the former chief minister was tested in the evening of June 4 and his report came the next day, which said he has tested positive for the second time. Since then, he has been in home isolation.
“Fadnavis is likely to be tested again before June 10. If he tests negative, he will vote with all others and if not he will come to vote last,” he said.
This is for the first time since 1998 that the Rajya Sabha election in Maharashtra will see a contest. In the last 24 years, the vacant Rajya Sabha seats in the state were filled unopposed. In 1998, the election was held as per the secret ballot system, while this time the voters (MLAs) will have to show their vote to the party whip before dropping it into the ballot box.
The official said all political parties will have to give details of their respective authorised agents by Thursday to the returning officer.
He said the voters will have to use ink pens provided by the Election Commission only. Similarly, since there are seven candidates in the fray, a voter will have seven preferences. The voter will have to mark their preferences on the ballot paper in the numerals (either English or Marathi) and maintain consistency, otherwise the vote will be considered as invalid.
Union minister Piyush Goyal, Anil Bonde, Dhananjay Mahadik (BJP), Sanjay Raut, Sanjay Pawar (shiv sena), Praful Patel (NCP), Imran Pratapgarhi (Congress) are in the fray.
The contest is for the sixth seat, where 25 MLAs belonging to smaller parties and independents hold the key.