But for ED bitterly opposing bail to Deshmukh and Malik, Maharashtra RS results may have been different
Enforcement Directorate fought bail applications of NCP leaders Anil Deshmukh and Nawab Malik tooth and nail, and the battle in courts continued till late into the afternoon of voting day on June 10
For the first time in months, even years – or ever since the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government was formed in Maharashtra, one could say –former CM and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis can savour a victory over his party's former ally, the Shiv Sena.
But the victory was neither unblemished nor unimpeachable. For a lot of gerrymandering went into ensuring that the third BJP candidate, contesting against the Sena for the sixth Rajya Sabha seat won his election.
The MVA fell three votes short of overcoming the BJP bandwidth and much was at stake in ensuring that two senior NCP leaders Anil Deshmukh and Nawab Malik were not given bail to cast their votes in the Vidhan Sabha.
This was unprecedented and quite unnecessary, for in the past, senior NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal was given leave by the very same Bombay High Court to cast his vote in the Presidential election of 2017.
Hardened criminals with proven records and convictions like Pappu Yadav, Mukhtar Ansari and other legislators from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have found no difficulty in securing a day's bail to cast their votes in various elections.
However, the Enforcement Directorate bitterly opposed their one-day bail applications and the battle in the courts continued till late into the afternoon of Friday, June 10.
It appeared that the BJP was uncertain if Malik and Deshmukh would eventually be granted leave or not to exercise their voting rights, hence it created a ruckus over two ministers allegedly displaying their ballot papers to their respective polling agents.
It took six hours for the Election Commission to examine CCTV footage and come to the conclusion that they could not be disqualified, something that both Jitendra Awhad of the NCP and Yashomati Thakur of the Congress had insisted upon from the start, stating that they had broken no rules and that assuring their polling agents of the way they had voted was not unconstitutional.
However, the EC deemed one vote of a Shiv Sena MLA as invalid and completely ignored MVA complaints about two votes on the BJP side – one is not sure whether all the parties were attempting to level the playing field or queering the pitch for each other.
But as with regards to all institutions these days, whether the courts, the ED or the EC, the BJP was at an advantage and NCP defector Dhananjay Mahadik succeeded in trouncing the Sena's Sanjay Pawar for the sixth seat.
However, this cannot be labelled as a shock defeat or victory as in Haryana with regard to Congress candidate Ajay Maken who lost because of cross voting in his party’s ranks. Not one MVA vote went against the expected lines and each candidate secured as many first and second preference votes as allotted to him.
Fadnavis, however, did succeed in drawing away the votes of some independent MLAs whom the MVA had presumed would go with their alliance.
In the battle of egos and oneupmanship, however, the BJP nonetheless scored a victory over the MVA, and Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut who retained his seat, however, failed to have Sanjay Pawar elected to the Rajya Sabha.
The next battle is likely to be at the grassroots when more than a dozen local bodies go to polls.
It also remains to be seen if the upcoming polls to the legislative council will see a similar clash of egos or candidates will get elected unopposed.
This was the first time in 28 years that Maharashtra saw an election to the upper house in Parliament. Previous elections were always held with consensus.
However, the division between the BJP and Shiv Sena allies is now so sharp that Fadnavis had turned down appeals to withdraw the BJP’s third candidate and an election became inevitable.
The NCP is likely to approach the courts against the prevention of Malik and Deshmukh from voting and that is likely to deny the BJP an untarnished victory in this election.
(Views are personal)