MUMBAI: In an attempt to mount pressure on the Congress to accept its demand for more seats, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) on Monday fielded its state president Sunil Tatkare against the Congress candidate in the election to the lone Maharashtra Legislative Council (MLC) seat.
Tatkare filed his papers on the last day of nomination against Mohan Joshi though the Congress had staked its claim to the seat, which fell vacant after Shiv Sena’s Vinayak Raut’s election to the Lok Sabha. The Sena, probably due to its poor victory prospects, has not fielded anyone in the election scheduled for August 21.
The NCP is likely to urge the Congress to withdraw its candidate from the election because it wants its state president on the Council. “We don’t want Tatkare to contest the Assembly election and get stuck in his constituency. If he is elected to the council, he will be able to tour the state and campaign extensively for the party. We will insist on the Congress leaving the seat to our leader,” a leader said.
Insiders believe that Tatkare’s candidature is NCP president Sharad Pawar’s ploy to remain one step ahead of the Congress as it may force the latter to withdraw from the election. At the same time, it is a future political investment for the Pawar-led party. The NCP is the single largest party in the Upper House with 32 members If the party were to sit in the Opposition, Tatkare will be an obvious choice for the post of Leader of Opposition, while Ajit Pawar will lead the party in the state Assembly. Tatkare said that he would not withdraw his nomination. “I have filed the nomination on my party’s order. I am the state president. There is no question of withdrawal,” he said after filing the papers.
State Congress president Manikrao Thakare was not available for comment.
There is speculation that the BJP may abstain from voting with the Sena expected to back Tatkare if the election does indeed takes place. The Sena will want to get Tatkare elected to rub salt into the Congress’ wounds.
There will be 277 voters among the Assembly members, who are eligible for voting in the MLC poll. The candidate, who manages to secure 139 votes, will be declared the winner. The Congress has 82 members with the support of 10 independents. The NCP has 62 members along with the backing of 10 independents. While the BJP has 45 eligible voters, the Sena has 44 votes. If the BJP were to abstain, the winning mark will come down to 116. If Tatakre gets the Sena’s 44 votes in addition to the 72 votes from the NCP and independents, he will easily get 116 votes.
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