Exploiting a wave of perceived angst of smaller parties and Independents propping up the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, the opposition BJP in Maharashtra dealt an embarrassing blow to the ruling alliance in the Rajya Sabha elections despite lacking in numbers.
Several members of the MVA grudgingly complimented Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis, with Nationalist Congress Party supremo Sharad Pawar even crediting him with pulling off a miracle, after the BJP won the crucial sixth seat by trouncing its former ally Shiv Sena's candidate.
Three BJP nominees won Rajya Sabha seats, Union Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal, BJP Kisan Morcha General Secretary Anil Bonde and state party spokesperson and ex-MP Dhananjay Mahadik from Kolhapur, with the latter routing Sena's Sanjay Pawar, also from Kolhapur.
The MVA netted three RS seats Sena chief spokesperson Sanjay Raut, NCP's ex-Union minister Praful Patel and Congress' Imran Pratapgarhi but the Sena's hopes to ensure Pawar's victory were ignominiously dashed.
A daylong of post-mortem comments by the dejected Sena leaders largely threw up the usual causes, with Raut blaming allurements, big bucks and threats that dissuaded several Independents and smaller parties from backing Sanjay Pawar despite assurances.
BJP's Mahadik romped home with 41 votes while Sena's Pawar got 39 votes with the minimum winning quota being 41 for all the contestants in the electoral college comprising 288 MLAs. The actual voting strength reduced as one Sena MLA died recently, while two from NCP were denied temporary bail to cast vote.
Similarly, Goyal and Bonde each got 48 votes, Pratapgarhi secured 44 votes, Patel netted 43 votes and Raut scraped through with 41 as one Sena vote was rendered invalid early on Saturday by the Election Commission of India (ECI).
Raut claimed that the MVA was deprived of three votes of the Bahujan Vikas Aghadi led by Hitendra Thakur, and some Independents like Sanjay Patil and Devendra Bhuyar, though the latter denied his contentions.
"We know who they are, we have the list... There were some horses' who were ready to be traded. It's not the people's mandate but that of horse-trading'," Raut said, vowing to improve MVA's performance in the upcoming elections.
He also accused the ECI of favouring the BJP by invalidating one Sena vote though the MVA had objected to two votes of BJP's Sudhir Mungantiwar and Independent Ravi Rana, but no action was taken on this.
Senior leader Sharad Pawar said that he was not shocked or surprised by the outcome, especially since all the MVA candidates polled the votes as per their quota."Only Patel got an extra vote and we don't know where it came from, it was not the MVA's vote but from the opposite side," he said.
He admitted that the gap was big for the sixth seat, and even though the MVA made all-out efforts to bridge the gap, it did not succeed."I must say Fadnavis knows how to keep his people together. He has performed a miracle' despite the numbers," said Pawar.
On the BJP side, boisterous celebrations erupted in Mumbai, Nagpur and Kolhapur besides other towns following Mahadik's victory, with Fadnavis prophesying that the "BJP's winning spree has begun again and will continue till 2024 when it would oust the unholy MVA which was formed out of backstabbing' after the 2019 Assembly polls".
Now, with the RS elections over, all the parties are concentrating on the June 20 biennial elections to the Maharashtra Legislative Council, with more trepidations in store for the MVA as there are 13 candidates vying for 10 seats, including 5 from the BJP, and one Independent supported by it vis-a-vis MVA's 7 nominees.