Amidst speculation of cross-voting by some opposition legislators, ruling Bharatiya Janata Party nominee Prasad Lad won the by-election to Maharashtra Legislative Council here on Thursday.
Securing 209 votes, he trounced his sole rival, Dilip Mane of Congress who bagged only 73 votes in the 288-member legislature.
The bypoll to the upper house was necessitated after former Congressman and former Chief Minister Narayan Rane resigned his seat and launched his own Maharashtra Swabhiman Party which allied with the ruling NDA last September.
Rane was hoping to be nominated by the BJP for the seat he vacated but pressures from the ally Shiv Sena ensured Lad got the nomination, though he is a new entrant to the party.
With the BJP’s 122 legislators, Shiv Sena’s 63, and seven independents, the ruling side’s strength was 192.
However, one Sena legislator, Minister of State for Textiles Arjun Khotkar, could not vote as his election as MLA from Jalna was recently annulled by the Bombay High Court’s Aurangabad Bench, so the effective ruling alliance strength was 191.
On the Opposition side, Congress has 42 legislators and the Nationalist Congress Party 41, totalling 83. But since two NCP legislators – Chhagan Bhujbal and Ramesh Kadam – could not cast their votes as they are currently in jail, so their effective strength was 81.
Besides, two AIMIM legislators, Waris Pathan and Imtiaz Jalil, did not vote.
Speculation is rife in political circles over which legislators from the opposition ranks cross-voted, since Mane secured only 73 votes against the expected 81 and Lad got 209 votes, more than the expected 191.
Incidentally, Lad, a wealthy businessman often referred to as the “billionaire legislator” of the state, was formerly with the NCP and trusted by its senior leader Ajit Pawar, before he defected to the BJP last year and became a close confidante of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.