After being snubbed by the Shiv Sena, Kolhapur royal Sambhajiraje Chhatrapati, who had earlier announced that he would contest the upcoming Rajya Sabha polls as an independent candidate, on Friday said he would not be contesting the election.
Accusing Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray of “breaking his word”, Sambhajiraje – an influential Maratha community leader and a direct descendant of Chhatrapati Shivaji – said his decision should not be considered as a withdrawal and that it was taken to keep his self-respect intact.
“Two Sena MPs were sent to meet me by the CM. They told me that I should enter the Shiv Sena and that the party would immediately announce my candidature for the RS seat. But I clearly told them that I will fight as an independent and not join the Sena. Then, Mr. Thackeray called me over to talk at his official residence ‘Varsha.’ He said we [Shiv Sena] want the Chhatrapati on our side, but I declined the proposal as it would have meant joining the Sena,” said Sambhajiraje, speaking to reporters in Mumbai.
The Kolhapur royal said that he had proposed that the Sena field him as an independent candidate through the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi coalition (of the Sena, the NCP and the Congress).
“However, the CM did not agree to it. Nonetheless, they [Shiv Sena] called me again to find a compromise. Even a draft was drawn-up…they [the Sena] said it was final. But when I left for Kolhapur, I found that the Sena had already nominated someone else as their candidate. The CM didn’t pick my phone when I called him to question the meaning of this action. I did not expect that the Chief Minister would break his word,” said Sambhajiraje, expressing hurt at the Sena’s ‘betrayal’.
The Sena had fielded its Kolhapur district president Sanjay Pawar for the sixth RS seat in the State after the Kolhapur royal had turned down their offer to join the party.
The royal had, on May 12, announced his decision to contest the RS election as an independent after his term as a President-nominated Rajya Sabha member ended. The former BJP MP had appealed to all parties to back him, with NCP chief Sharad Pawar being the first to announce his support for the Kolhapur royal.
Meanwhile, the BJP hit out at the Sena and Mr. Sharad Pawar, with Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis dubbing the MVA’s behaviour towards Sambhajiraje as “extremely condemnable.”
Accusing Mr. Pawar of deliberately queering the Kolhapur royal’s pitch, Mr. Fadnavis questioned why the NCP chief had promptly expressed support for Sambhajiraje despite knowing very well that according to the NCP’s tacit agreement with the Sena, the sixth seat would fall in the Sena’s kitty as part of a quid pro quo arrangement.
Of the 57 RS seats across India going to polls on June 10, six are from Maharashtra. Going by the respective numerical strength of the major parties in the State, the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is numerically the single-largest party (with 106 seats) is set to get two seats with 42 votes deciding each seat, 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.