Resort Politics Resurfaces in Maharashtra Ahead of Legislative Council Elections

Mumbai: The political landscape in Maharashtra has once again been characterised by ‘resort politics’, as various parties strive to consolidate their MLAs and prevent ‘cross-voting’ in the upcoming Legislative Council elections. In a bid to safeguard their members, Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray has relocated all 16 of his MLAs to the ITC Grand Central Hotel in Mumbai. Meanwhile, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, accompanied by his NCP MLAs, sought blessings at the Siddhi Vinayak temple before settling them in a resort. The BJP has also been training its MLAs on voting procedures for the MLCs, ensuring all parties are taking measures to secure their members.

Elections for 11 Legislative Council seats in Maharashtra are scheduled for 12th July, with 12 candidates vying for these positions. Aside from the BJP and Congress, no single party has sufficient votes to secure a win for their candidate, heightening the risk of cross-voting. An MLC candidate requires the support of 23 MLAs on a first-preference basis to win. Consequently, political manoeuvring has intensified, with leaders like Uddhav Thackeray and Ajit Pawar working to protect their MLAs from defection.

For the Legislative Council elections, the NDA has nominated nine candidates, while the India Alliance has put forward three candidates. The BJP’s slate includes Pankaja Munde, Dr Parinay Fuke, Amit Borkhe, Yogesh Tilekar, and Sadabhau Khot. The Shinde-led Shiv Sena has nominated former MPs Bhawana Gawli and Kirpal Tumane, while Ajit Pawar’s NCP has Shivajirao Garje and Rajesh Vitekar. The India Alliance’s candidates are Pragya Satav from Congress, Milind Narvekar from Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena (UBT), and Jayant Patil from Sharad Pawar’s NCP.

Based on the composition of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly, the NDA is poised to win nine out of the 11 seats, while the India Alliance is expected to secure two seats. With the support of 23 MLAs required for an MLC seat, fears of cross-voting have prompted all parties to fortify their ranks. Since the Lok Sabha elections, the political atmosphere has shifted, with some MLAs from the Shinde-led Shiv Sena and Ajit Pawar-led NCP potentially switching allegiances. Cross-voting could enable the India coalition to win three seats, prompting leaders like Uddhav Thackeray and Ajit Pawar to diligently safeguard their MLAs.

Uddhav Thackeray has taken significant steps to secure the election of his personal secretary Milind Narvekar, relocating all 16 of his party’s MLAs to the ITC Grand Central Hotel. Aaditya Thackeray is also staying with the MLAs to prevent any opposition contact. Similarly, Sharad Pawar is working to secure votes for Jayant Patil of the Peasants and Workers Party, who requires additional support to win.

The Congress, with 37 MLAs in the India Alliance, has 36 votes after one MLA declared support for the Ajit Pawar faction. Even after securing votes for their candidate Pragya Satav, they have surplus votes that Uddhav Thackeray and Sharad Pawar are eyeing. Political analysts note the rejection of the Ajit Pawar faction in the Lok Sabha elections, leading to speculation that some MLAs might be inclined to return, raising the possibility of cross-voting.

Ajit Pawar has taken proactive steps, including a visit to the Siddhivinayak temple with his MLAs and securing them in a safe location. Despite BJP’s reservations, Ajit Pawar has included Nawab Malik, who is out on bail, highlighting the importance of every vote. The Shinde-led Shiv Sena has booked 60 rooms in a five-star hotel in Mumbai, while Ajit Pawar’s NCP and BJP MLAs are accommodated in different hotels. The BJP has also conducted voting practice sessions to ensure no votes are wasted.

The Maharashtra Legislative Assembly currently has 274 MLAs out of a total of 288. The BJP, with 103 MLAs, along with Ajit Pawar’s NCP (40 MLAs) and Shinde’s Shiv Sena (38 MLAs), forms the core of the NDA’s 203 MLA support base. To secure all nine MLC seats, the NDA needs the backing of four additional MLAs, necessitating efforts to keep smaller parties onside. The India coalition, with 71 MLAs, relies on Congress (37 MLAs), Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena (16 MLAs), Sharad Pawar’s NCP (12 MLAs), SP (2 MLAs), CPI(M) (2 MLAs), and three additional MLAs. Winning all three seats for the India coalition requires maintaining unity among their MLAs and garnering support from other party members.

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