Maharashtra Parties Relocate MLAs to Hotels Ahead of Key Legislative Council Election


The Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena (UBT) has housed its MLAs in Lower Parel's ITC Grand Central Hotel while Shiv Sena (Eknath Shinde faction) MLAs are at Taj Lands End in Bandra. (PTI)

The Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena (UBT) has housed its MLAs in Lower Parel’s ITC Grand Central Hotel while Shiv Sena (Eknath Shinde faction) MLAs are at Taj Lands End in Bandra. (PTI)

The Uddhav Thackeray-led MVA government fell two-and-a-half years ago due to cross-voting in the MLC election, which further caused a split in the Shiv Sena party

It’s election season in Maharashtra again and in an effort to prevent cross-voting, both Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena (UBT) and Eknath Shinde’s Sena have relocated their MLAs to different hotels across Mumbai in the run up to the legislative council election set for Friday.

Keeping in mind the secret ballot voting for the polls, both alliances are keeping a close watch on theor flock to keep the group together and avoid possible cross-voting. The Uddhav Thackeray-led MVA government fell two-and-a-half years ago due to cross-voting in the MLC election, which further caused a split in the Shiv Sena party.

In such elections, there is usually a fear of cross-voting due to the secret ballot system, where MLAs often vote as per their own preference despite the party’s orders. To avoid this, all major political parties have moved their MLAs to five-star hotels in Mumbai. Sources say that every night, after the MLAs return to their respective hotels from the assembly session, top leaders from their parties repeatedly instruct them on how to cast their votes according to the party’s preference. This election is seen as a semi-final before the state assembly polls in Maharashtra so parties are leaving no stone unturned to ensure their candidates win.

The Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena (UBT) has housed its MLAs in Lower Parel’s ITC Grand Central Hotel. The BJP MLAs are staying at Taj President in Colaba, while the Shiv Sena (Eknath Shinde faction) MLAs are at Taj Lands End in Bandra. Ajit Pawar’s NCP faction has arranged accommodations for their MLAs at Hotel Lalit in Andheri. Confident in their unity, the Congress has organised a small dinner meeting on Thursday at Hotel Intercontinental in South Mumbai. Observers from the Congress will be arriving from Delhi to brief the MLAs about voting. Interestingly, the NCP(SP), led by Sharad Pawar, has not booked any hotels or organised any major meetings for its MLAs.

On Wednesday, the BJP held a separate meeting of its MLAs, which included a rehearsal of how to cast votes for the MLC election under the supervision of senior leaders. Late Wednesday night, Maharashtra CM Eknath Shinde met with his MLAs at Taj Lands End Hotel in Bandra for a closed-door meeting about the MLC election. Shiv Sena UBT leaders also held a meeting where senior party leaders briefed MLAs about the MLC elections.

There are 11 seats in the Maharashtra Legislative Council for which 12 nominations were filed. It will be interesting as the MVA has put forward a third candidate, despite having a quota that allows only two candidates to win this election. After consulting with other alliance partners, Shiv Sena UBT filed the nomination of Milind Narvekar, a close aide of Uddhav Thackeray, who has connections across all parties. Narvekar, being influential, has been tasked with managing the extra votes needed for a comfortable win for the MVA’s third candidate.

Congress leader Pradnya Satav and Farmers and Peasants Party senior leader Jayant Patil were the first two candidates of the MVA. After Narvekar filed his nomination as the third candidate, he was seen speaking to BJP and Shiv Sena (Eknath Shinde faction) leaders in the assembly premises.

The ruling BJP, Shiv Sena, and NCP have 181 seats combined, whereas the MVA, consisting of Congress, Shiv Sena (UBT), and NCP (SP), has a bench strength of 64. There are 29 MLAs belonging to smaller parties, and all parties are making efforts to secure their votes.

The BJP has nominated OBC leader from Marathwada, Pankaja Munde, who recently lost the Lok Sabha election to an NCP candidate. Other candidates are Amit Gorkhe, Sadabhau Khot, Yogesh Tilekar, and Parinay Phuke, who has been given another chance. Shinde’s Shiv Sena has fielded former MPs Bhawana Gawli and Krupal Tumane, whose tickets were cut in the Lok Sabha elections due to anti-incumbency and negative survey reports. To pacify these influential leaders, Shinde has provided them a backdoor entry. Ajit Pawar has shown confidence in his loyalists Shivajirao Garje and Rajesh Vitekar.

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