Rajya Sabha polls in Maharashtra likely to go unopposed | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times

Rajya Sabha polls in Maharashtra likely to go unopposed

Feb 15, 2024 07:14 AM IST

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has nominated only three candidates for the Rajya Sabha elections in Maharashtra, potentially leading to uncontested seats. The ruling party has denied a nomination to Union Minister Narayan Rane, sparking speculation about his potential candidacy in the Lok Sabha elections. The BJP dropped the idea of contesting one more seat after realizing it couldn't manage the votes required. The Shiv Sena and NCP have also announced their candidates for the elections.

Mumbai The Rajya Sabha elections for six seats in Maharashtra could go uncontested as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has nominated only three candidates for the poll — Ashok Chavan, Medha Kulkarni and Dr Ajeet Gopchade. Thursday is the last day to file nomination for the Rajya Sabha polls and Congress leaders say they are cautious about any last-minute surprise by the BJP.

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The ruling party has denied a nomination to Union Minister Narayan Rane, whose tenure ends on April 4. This has triggered speculation that the party may ask 71-year-old Rane to contest the Lok Sabha elections from the Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg Lok Sabha seat, which has been with the Shiv Sena (UBT) MP Vinayak Raut for the last two terms. Rane is serving as minister of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises in the Narendra Modi government and was inducted in the party on the assurance of a berth in Maharashtra cabinet in September 2019. The then ally Shiv Sena (united) strongly opposed his induction in the state cabinet after which he was sent to Rajya Sabha.

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Though the BJP was considering contesting one more seat, betting on the potential cross voting by Congress MLAs and possibility of the votes of Shiv Sena (UBT) and NCP (Sharad Pawar) factions, the party finally dropped the idea. The decision was taken after it realized that it would not be possible to manage the votes required for the additional seat.

State BJP chief Chandrashekhar Bawankule said that the party would field only three candidates. “Six candidates could get elected to Rajya Sabha unanimously… It doesn’t look like voting would be needed,” he said after the party’s central election committee named its candidates.

BJP’s ally Shiv Sena led by chief minister Eknath Shinde approved the name of former union minister Milind Deora as their candidate for the Rajya Sabha polls. Deora was given the nomination exactly a month after he crossed over from the Congress.

Another ally - Ajit Pawar-led NCP - picked up a surprise name by fielding sitting Rajya Sabha MP Praful Patel. He was nominated in 2022 and still has four more years in his current term but now he will have to resign from the Upper House and contest it again to get re-elected.

Congress, meanwhile, fielded former minister Chandrakant Handore as its candidate for the elections. He is the lone candidate from the three-party Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition owing to the shrunk strength of two parties — Shiv Sena and NCP. Both the parties faced a split in a period of one year.

The election for the six seats of the RS is slated to be held on February 27 from the MLAs in the Assembly. With the existing strength of 284 MLAs, each seat of RS needs 41 votes to win. The BJP and the independents supporting it, can win three seats. The Shinde-led Shiv Sena and Ajit Pawar-led NCP can win one seat each on the basis of their existing strength. Congress is the only opposition party which has a sizable strength – 43 - to win a seat.

A senior BJP leader said the ruling alliance was discussing if it should field a fourth candidate but there was a view that the optics of a battle with the Congress candidate, a Dalit, may not serve the alliance’s interests. “Since Congress has fielded a Dalit leader… it won’t be politically correct,” the leader said.

BJP has also strategically picked its three candidates and avoided an unwarranted political tussle. By picking Medha Kulkarni, it has attempted to calm down the Brahmin community which is believed to be unhappy with the BJP after the community leaders were denied the candidature in the assembly elections in 2019. By also fielding Dr Gopchade, the party has attempted to woo Lingayat community which has a dominant presence in districts including Dharashiv, Solapur, Kolhapur, Nanded, Sangli among others.

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    Faisal is with the political team and covers state administration and state politics. He also covers NCP.


    Surendra P Gangan is Senior Assistant Editor with political bureau of Hindustan Times’ Mumbai Edition. He covers state politics and Maharashtra government’s administrative stories. Reports on the developments in finances, agriculture, social sectors among others.

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