Maharashtra local polls: Congress-NCP, Shiv Sena-BJP finalize seat-sharing

Mumbai: Maharashtra’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Shiv Sena and opposition Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) have finalized seat-sharing for the 21 May elections to the state’s legislative council.

Members to the legislative council, the Upper House of Maharashtra’s bicameral legislature, are elected by elected members of the local self-government bodies. Six seats go to polls on 21 May: (1) Raigad-Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg in Konkan, (2) Latur-Beed-Osmanabad and (3) Parbhani-Hingoli, both in Marathwada; (4) Wardha-Chandrapur-Gadchiroli and (5) Amravati both in Vidarbha, and (6) Nashik.

On Thursday, the last date to file nominations, Congress and NCP which were sparring over two of the six seats, ended their differences and decided to contest three seats each, according to a senior Maharashtra Congress functionary who did not want to be named.

Similarly, the BJP and Shiv Sena had on Wednesday decided to contest three seats each. The BJP will contest Latur-Beed-Osmanabad, Wardha-Chandrapur-Gadchiroli, and Amravati seats and the Sena would contest the rest. On Thursday, according to the Congress functionary, the Congress settled for Amravati, Parbhani-Hingoli, and Wardha-Chandrapur-Gadchiroli seats, leaving the remaining three for the NCP to contest.

The elections have been necessitated as the terms of six members—three from NCP, two from BJP, and one from Congress — end in May and June. The polls assume greater significance for the BJP and Shiv Sena, which are behind the NCP and Congress in the Upper House. In the 78-member legislative council, the NCP currently has 23 members followed by Congress which has 19 and the BJP which has 18. The Shiv Sena has 9 members.

“Since the members of the local self-government bodies like municipal corporations and councils are going to elect the six members, the outcome will largely be shaped by the performance of the major four parties in the local body elections in the last two-three years. Since the BJP and Shiv Sena have done better than Congress and NCP in the local elections in 2016 and 2017, we stand a better chance of bagging a majority of these six seats,” said a state BJP functionary, who did not wish to be named.

He said since the term of three members of the NCP was ending, the BJP was “very likely to get one up over the Congress and become the second largest party in the council after the NCP”. “We are likely to win all three seats taking our tally in the house to 20. The NCP may retain one or two of the three seats which will reduce their number to 22 or 21. The Congress will surely not be able to continue as the second largest party since it won’t win all three seats,” said the BJP functionary, pointing at the BJP’s success in the municipal elections. The Shiv Sena is also likely to improve its tally from 9 to at least 11, the BJP functionary said.

The BJP functionary, however, refused to read any long-term strategy in the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance for these elections. “This is a purely short-term strategy. Both parties need to improve their numbers in the council and there is no sense in fighting against each other in this scenario. As for the larger pre-poll alliance, both the parties will take the call nearer the elections,” the BJP functionary said. The Congress-NCP though have recently declared on several occasions—the latest being the NCP’s state executive meeting where NCP president Sharad Pawar said the party was for an “honourable deal” with the Congress—that they may contest the next elections together.livemint