Mumbai: Was it the case that the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA), especially the Shiv Sena, got carried away after getting punch-drunk on power and taking its opponents too lightly? It does seem so for former chief minister and Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) leader of opposition in Maharashtra Legislative Assembly, Devendra Fadnavis. Besides this, the Shiv Sena apparently has rubbed the motley group of 13 Independent MLAs in the lower house.
Even, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar appears to be in awe, describing the election results to the six Rajya Sabha seats in Maharashtra as something of a “miracle”.
Despite lacking in the numbers game, the BJP team consisting of Fadnavis, candidate and Union Minister Piyush Goyal and Union Minister Ashwini Vaishnav pulled off a heist of sorts on the MVA.
And the Sena led MVA composed of NCP, Congress and smaller affiliate parties could barely manage to get one candidate elected.
Ironically, both the BJP lacked numbers to get its third candidate elected, and so did the Sena which lacked the numbers to get its second candidate elected.
However, the end result stumped everyone. Both the BJP candidate’s – Piyush Goyal and Dr Anil Bonde polled 48 first preference votes, Imran Pratapgadhi of the Congress polled 44 votes, NCPs Praful Patel 43 votes, Sena’s Sanjay Raut polled 42.
The tussle for the sixth seat between Sena’s Sanjay Pawar and BJP backed Independent Dhananjay Mahadik was decided on the basis of the surplus second and third preference votes that were transferred to them from the five already elected candidates.
It is here that some Chartered Accountants (CA) on social media are patting the backs of Union Minister for Commerce and Industry, Piyush Goyal, himself an acclaimed CA, Fadnavis and Vaishnav for the strategic planning in allocating preferential quotas to each of the three BJP candidates.
The BJP strategists were well aware of the fact that the second preference votes of its two already elected candidates (Goyal and Bonde) would be taken up first for allotment and further preferential counting in the counting process.
It is here, where the BJPs tie-up with the Independent MLAs and smaller political parties worked in its favour. In the end, in “Akhada” (wrestling ring) of the Rajya Sabha, the two wrestlers from Kolhapur, Mahadik polled 41.56 votes as against 33 votes of his nearest Sena rival Sanjay Pawar.
The official quota of preferential votes needed to win a seat was reduced to 41 from 42 votes, former NCP minister Anil Deshmukh and NCP minister Nawab Malik’s pleas to be allowed to vote were dismissed by the court of law. Whereas, the third vote of Sena’s Suhas Kande was rejected by the election returning officer on grounds that he had shown his ballot paper to an election agent other than that of his own party.
On the other hand, the BJP had ensured that two of its ailing MLAs – Mukta Tilak and Laxman Jagtap were brought to the Vidhan Bhavan on Friday directly from the hospital. The BJP ensured that the two cast their ballot. The same could not be said true of the NCP, which failed to secure the release of Deshmukh and Malik so that they could cast their ballot.
The BJPs objection to Kande’s act of indiscretion that led to Sena and Congress filing counter-complaints which ultimately pushed the counting process to the wee hours of the morning. The Election Commission of India (EC) upheld the BJPs objection and rejected the Sena and Congress appeals.
The MVA already reeling under the impact of the loss of the two NCP votes was further hit hard by the rejection of Kande’s vote. That brought the final vote count to 285 (MLAs actually voted) and quota to 41 votes.
Besides its own 106 MLAs, the BJP had the support of 10 Independents and smaller political parties in the lower house. As against this just the three MVA partners between themselves had strength of 152 MLAs and claiming to have the support of the Independents as well as smaller political parties like the Samajwadi Party, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) and others in the 288-member lower house.
Apart from the BJPs strategy, it was the Shiv Sena which got carried away after getting punch-drunk on power and taking its opponents too lightly.
What must be borne here in mind is that in the Rajya Sabha elections which though is held by open ballot (the MLA showing his vote from the cubicle only to his party’s election agent from a distance), the provision does not apply to the Independent MLAs and to an extent to smaller political parties having one or two members.
The provision of party whip does not apply to the Independent MLAs who are free to vote as per their conscience. It was a string of their conscience that Fadnavis claims to have tugged days ahead of the polls.
Days before the polls, Sena chief spokesperson Sanjay Raut had been harping on the accusation of “horse-trading” which stung like a wasp to the group of Independent MLAs. Even the Central investigating agencies like the Enforcement Directorate (ED) were dragged into the elections.
Raut later on today accused Independent MLAs – Devendra Bhuyar (Morshi), Sanjaymama Shinde (Karmala) and Shyamsunder Shinde (Loha) of betrayal of their promise to vote for the Sena candidate. He also heaped scorn on Bahujan Vikas Aghadi (BVA) led by Hitendra Thakur, his son Kshitij Thakur and Rajesh Patil for not voting for the Sena candidate.
Till the voting day, both the Samajwadi Party, MIM and other small parties seemed to have felt like “unwanted, uninvited guests in a party”. Though both decided to vote for the MVA candidate, they did not specify which party.
Both these political parties have been ideologically opposed to the Shiv Sena. If that was not enough the Sena had repeatedly taunted and termed the MIM as the “B Team” of the BJP and had rejected its offers to join the MVA on the grounds that it would have diluted its “Hindutva credentials”.
The MIM declared that it had voted for the Congress candidate Imran Pratapgadhi. The Congress already had jacked up Pratapgadhi’s defences by shoring up his quota to full 44 votes. Needless to say, the first preference votes of MIM to the Congress were a “tactical waste” as the value of the second and third preference votes diminishes gradually with each progressive round of counting, until a clear winner is not found.
To further set the cat amongst the pigeons, NCP chief Sharad Pawar while maintaining that none of the core MVA votes split, the NCP polled one vote extra that too from outside the MVA.
Secondly, what seems to have irked Independent MLAs like Devendra Bhuyar was being labelled as one who indulged in “horse-trading”. Taking on Raut over unkempt promises, he shot back at the Sena chief spokesperson wanting to know to whom should he air his grievances – Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray or fugitive underworld don Dawood Ibrahim?
Besides the charge of “horse-trading” what apparently did not go down well amongst the Independent MLAs was the treatment meted out recently to Independent Lok Sabha MP Navneet Rana and her husband Independent MLA Ravi Rana over the Hanuman Chalisa chanting controversy. Raut later tried to make amends with the couple while on a visit to Leh on May 19 ostensibly to seek her husband’s support for the Rajya Sabha polls.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist – CPI-M) too is ideologically opposed to the Sena and considers Sena as its arch rival in their Dahanu constituency in neighbouring Palghar district.
It is debatable as to whether the rest of the smaller parties – Peasants and Workers Party (PWP) – also ideologically opposed to Sena, besides, Swabhimani Paksha, Rashtriya Samaj Paksha (RSP) and Jana Surajya Party.
The smaller parties like Prahar Janashakti Party (PJP) led by Bachchu Kadu, who is a minister in the MVA government and Krantikari Shetkari Party (KSP) could have voted for the MVA.
More sterner tests await for the ruling MVA with the biennial elections to 10 Elected by MLAs (EMLAs) constituencies in the Legislative Council that are due to be held on June 20 and later on the election to elect the 16th President of India that is due on July 18.
Both the elections are held by secret ballot and the voters in MLC elections are MLAs and in the case of Presidential elections the voters besides MLAs, are Members of Parliament from both the houses of Parliament. Neither the opposition and more so the ruling MVA can take these two ensuing elections lightly given the growing resentment amongst the MLAs especially in the ruling dispensation.