In Maharashtra Rajya Sabha polls, 3 seats each for ruling coalition, BJP

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After a late-night drama, union minister Piyush Goyal, NCP leader Praful Patel, Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut, Congress leader Imran Pratapgarhi, BJP’s Anil Bonde and Dhananjay Mahadik got elected to Rajya Sabha from Maharashtra.

The election result is being seen as a setback for the ruling coalition Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi as Shiv Sena candidate Sanjay Pawar lost the poll in a close battle against the opposition party despite having more votes on paper. The BJP managed to pull maximum independent and small-party MLAs on its side -17 out of 29. The counting was held after a high voltage drama that saw the BJP raising an objection to three votes of MVA saying their MLAs violated rules by showing their ballot papers to others. The MVA lodged complaint against a BJP MLA and an independent supporting BJP. The Election Commission of India (ECI) declared the vote of a Sena MLA, Suhas Kande, invalid. Though 285 MLAs voted, 284 votes were considered valid after rejecting Kande’s vote.

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The poll result also underlined that the strategy planned by leader of opposition Devendra Fadnavis was successful as BJP has 106 MLAs of its own and needed 17 more votes to win its third seat, which it got.

The MVA has 150 members (excluding two Nationalist Congress Party legislators Anil Deshmukh and Nawab Malik, who are in jail on separate money-laundering charges). It needed at least 14 more votes to win its fourth seat. It could get only 12 votes from small parties and independents.

The defeat of MVA’s fourth candidate comes as a morale booster for the BJP.

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“The series of our victory has begun and it will continue,” said Fadnavis’ after the results were declared. “I dedicate our victory to two MLAs, Laxman Jagtap and Mukta Tilak who were unwell and bed-ridden but still travelled in ambulance to vote for us,” he said.

Sena’s Sanjay Raut said their candidate lost because the MVA did not get adequate votes from small parties and independents.

“We did not get some expected votes. We know who didn’t vote for us. Some went because of central probe agencies, and some voted because of certain other reasons. We congratulated BJP,” he said.

The counting of votes started around 2am after the ECI declared Shiv Sena MLA Suhas Kande’s vote as invalid.

Goyal got 48 votes, Bonde 48 votes, Pratapgarhi 44 votes, Patel 43 votes, Raut 41 votes, Mahadik 27 votes and Pawar had secured 33 votes of first preference.

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Congress minister Balasaheb Thorat said that they would have to study what went wrong for Pawar. “We are happy that Congress candidate Imran Pratapgarhi won the election but we were expecting similar results for all four MVA candidates. We now have to understand the arithmetic and study what went wrong,” Thorat told reporters.

ECI decision came after Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition parties and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) approached them to disqualify the votes of certain legislators from each other’s camps on account of alleged rule-breaking during the polling process. This also led to a delay of around nine hours in starting the counting process.

The BJP alleged three MLAs of the ruling MVA parties — cabinet ministers Jitendra Awhad (Nationalist Congress Party) and Yashomati Thakur (Indian National Congress), besides Shiv Sena legislator Suhas Kande — violated the model code of conduct.

The MVA too handed a letter, signed by Sena’s Anil Desai, NCP’s Jayant Patil and Congress’ Balasaheb Thorat, to the poll body seeking that the votes of senior BJP MLA Sudhir Mungantiwar and independent MLA Ravi Rana, who supported the BJP candidate in Friday’s voting, be declared invalid.

After examining video footage, ECI found the complaint raised against Kande as valid and directed the returning officials not to count his vote. While the rest of the complaints were not considered.

Kande is a Shiv Sena MLA and is believed to have given his vote to Sena candidate Sanjay Raut.

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