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Rajya Sabha polls | BJP fields three candidates from Maharashtra, prompts ‘horse-trading’ accusations from ruling Shiv Sena – Mrit News

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After Piyush Goyal and Anil Bonde, Kolhapur’s Dhananjay Mahadik is the BJP’s third choice 

After Piyush Goyal and Anil Bonde, Kolhapur’s Dhananjay Mahadik is the BJP’s third choice 

A fierce fight is in the offing for the sixth Rajya Sabha seat in Maharashtra after the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) fielded a third candidate, senior leader from Kolhapur and ex-MP Dhananjay Mahadik.

Earlier, the party had announced the candidatures of Union Minister Piyush Goyal and former Maharashtra Minister Dr. Anil Bonde. All three BJP leaders filed their respective nominations on Monday.

The BJP’s fielding of a third candidate immediately prompted accusations from the ruling Shiv Sena that the former planned to indulge in rampant horse-trading ahead of the June 10 polls.

The Sena has staked claim on the sixth RS seat as well by fielding a second candidate, its Kolhapur district chief Sanjay Pawar.

BJP’s third candidate

Expressing confidence that the BJP would win all three seats and have three leaders from Maharashtra in the Upper House, former Chief Minister and Maharashtra BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis said: “All three candidates are from Maharashtra. While we are proud to field Mr. Goyal, who is from Mumbai, Dr. Anil Bonde has been a farmers’ leader and an expert in the agricultural field besides being a Minister in the previous [BJP] government. Dhananjay Mahadik, too, has done a lot of work in the State’s cooperative sector.”

Mr. Mahadik, who belongs to the influential Mahadik clan in Kolhapur, was an Nationalist Congress Party MP who later joined the BJP soon after the 2019 Assembly polls. A great rival of senior Congressman Satej ‘Bunty’ Patil, Mr. Mahadik, who was beaten in the 2019 Lok Sabha election besides suffering reversals in local elections, has seen his fortunes slide since he joined the BJP.

He is pinning his hopes of a political comeback with a win in the RS polls.

So too, is Anil Bonde, who was defeated by the Swabhiman Paksha’s candidate Devendra Bhuyar from Amravati’s Morshi Assembly segment in the 2019 Maharashtra Assembly election.

Independents will hold the key

With 42 votes being needed by each candidate to win, the BJP, which is  numerically the single-largest party in the 288-seat Maharashtra Assembly (with 106 seats) is expected to win two seats, while the three Maha Vikas Aghadi coalition parties — the Shiv Sena (56 seats), the NCP (53 seats) and the Congress party (44 seats) — are set to get one seat each.

While the BJP can claim the support of a total of 113 legislators (106 of its own plus five independents and two from smaller parties) in the Maharashtra Assembly, the tripartite MVA alliance can claim the support of a total 169 MLAs on its side (besides the cumulative strength of the Sena, NCP and Congress’ of 153 MLAs, the alliance has the support of eight independents and eight other smaller parties).

This leaves 29 surplus votes for the BJP and 27 surplus votes for the MVA alliance. With neither side having a clean 42 votes, independent legislators and smaller parties will hold the key to the outcome for the sixth RS seat.

BJP, Sena: Confident of winning all seats

Responding to the Sena’s accusations of the BJP indulging in potential horse-trading, Mr. Fadnavis said: “If they [the Shiv Sena] is scared, they can withdraw their candidate. But the BJP will not indulge in any horse-trading. All three of our candidates are from Maharashtra with enough political experience and ground work. We will win all three seats.”

Sena MP Sanjay Raut hit out at the BJP by remarking that the latter’s fielding of a third candidate made it abundantly clear how the BJP had “deceived” Kolhapur royal Sambhajiraje Chhatrapati.

“While the BJP anyway has planned to indulge in horse trading, they were using Sambhajiraje as a shield. When he backed out of the race, the BJP announced their third candidate. But we [MVA] have the quota needed for victory. The Sena will win both seats,” Mr. Raut said, warning that the ruling MVA would be closely monitoring if the BJP attempted any horse-trading moves.

Sambhajiraje ‘betrayal’

Earlier this month, Sambhajiraje, an influential Maratha community leader and a direct descendant of Chhatrapati Shivaji, had spelled out his decision to contest the RS election as an independent after his term as a President-nominated Rajya Sabha member ended. He had appealed to all parties to back him, with NCP chief Sharad Pawar being the first to announce his support for the Kolhapur royal.

However, the Shiv Sena — the NCP’s ally in the MVA — soon staked claim for the sixth seat, hamstringing Mr. Sambhajiraje’s chances. While the Sena offered to make Mr. Sambhajiraje its candidate conditional to his joining the party, the latter declined. Despite the Kolhapur royal’s parleys with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, the Sena, too, refused to budge from its stance and announced it was fielding its Kolhapur district president Sanjay Pawar for the sixth seat.

This caused Sambhaji to back out of the poll race while accusing CM Uddhav Thackeray of “breaking his word” by failing to support his candidature. The BJP, too, hit out at the MVA, with Mr. Fadnavis alleging that Sambhaji’s candidature was refused as the Sena, and especially the NCP were apparently being threatened by Sambhajiraje’s popularity.

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