A day ahead of the polling for 10 Maharashtra legislative council seats, a section of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader was apprehensive that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) might play spoiler to their hopes of getting two candidates elected, people familiar with the development said on Sunday.
Insiders in the NCP said the BJP might target Eknath Khadse, who is contesting as one of the two NCP candidates and is seen as a staunch critic of the BJP and particularly Devendra Fadnavis.
“BJP can try and target Khadse considering his animosity with the opposition leader. Some of the NCP MLAs or those supporting us may be convinced not to vote for him,” said an NCP leader, requesting anonymity. “This may create trouble for him (Khadse) as the party is already short of one vote if the quota of 26 votes for each of the candidates — Khadse and Ramraje Naik Nimbalkar is determined.”
The NCP has 51 legislators and to win a council seat, a candidate will need 26 to 27 votes depending on the votes polled.
“Barring the Sena, the other two ruling parties require additional votes to get their candidates elected,” said a BJP leader, requesting anonymity.
What has increased the trouble for the NCP is that two of its jailed MLAs —Anil Deshmukh and Nawab Malik —failed to get permission from the Bombay high court to cast their votes.
“The contest is really close and if the BJP manages three to four NCP MLAs or those supporting the NCP to cross-vote, then the equation can change,” the NCP leader quoted above said, referring to the secret ballot system to be used in the polls.
The BJP said if Khadse gets defeated, then it means the NCP did not want him to win. “NCP will itself try to defeat Khadse because they will have to fulfill all the commitments they would have made to him,” said Madhav Bhandari, Maharashtra BJP vice-president. “To ensure Khadse ji’s victory, NCP can make him the first preference candidate…”