Mumbai: The possibility of an exodus from the Congress in the coming days has raised doubts about the prospects of its candidate in the Rajya Sabha election, slated to be held on February 27. The party has a chance of electing one candidate based on its strength, which has fallen to 43 after the resignation of Ashok Chavan. But this too may be scuttled if the number of Congress MLAs falls below the required quota of 41 or 42 or if the MVA constituents are not allowed to vote.
Of the six Rajya Sabha seats going to polls at the end of this month, Congress’ is the only seat that can be won by the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA). But it is not clear if the Sharad Pawar faction of the NCP, which has 12 MLAs, and the Shiv Sena (UBT), which has 14 MLAs, will be able to vote for the Congress candidate representing the MVA. Experts are also divided over the applicability of the whip of the ‘real party’ as per orders of the election commission and the speaker.
However, Congress spokesperson Atul Londhe said that there would be no difficulty in electing its candidate in the Rajya Sabha poll. “First of all, there would be no more resignations from our party and even if they happen, we have the support of Sharad Pawar faction of NCP and Shiv Sena (UBT) MLAs. They are separate entities as stated by the Election Commission. If the speaker tries to tweak the ruling, we will approach the apex court,” said Londhe.
Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Sunil Prabhu too exuded confidence, saying, “The assembly speaker, in his verdict on January 10, clarified that the two factions of Sena are seperate entities. In such a scenario, the Congress should not have any difficulty in electing its candidate with help of votes from the two allies.”
Meanwhile, the BJP is planning to field an extra candidate in the Rajya Sabha poll, keeping in mind the potential exodus from the Congress and the ambiguity over voting by the Thackeray and Sharad Pawar factions.
“Ashok Chavan could be the extra candidate, making it easier for Congress MLAs on the verge of quitting the party to defy the party order and vote for us,” said a BJP leader. According to some experts, the speaker’s order on the whip would prevail during the voting as well, which will help the ruling alliance send a sixth candidate to the upper house, the leader added.