The upcoming biennial election to Maharashtra Legislative Council will provide an opportunity to chief minister Uddhav Thackeray to mark his debut as a legislator, and it will also be interesting to see if there there will be a contest for nine seats which are up for grabs.
Efforts are on to ensure nominees for the nine vacancies are elected unopposed, a Congress leader said.
But, if the situation of a contest arises, all the 288 MLAs, who form the electoral college for the Council polls, will have to come to Mumbai to cast their vote.
If the lockdown is extended beyond May 17, it could be difficult for MLAs to travel to Mumbai.
"All the parties will have to take a decision on avoiding a contest and efforts are on in that direction," a Congress leader said, adding that state party unit president Balasaheb Thorat met Nationalist Congress Part chief Sharad Pawar on Tuesday.
Later, leaders of the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA-comprising the Shiv Sena, the NCP and the Congress), including chief minister Thackeray, held a meeting to discuss the strategy for the council polls.
Thorat said that the MVA allies have decided to contest the polls together and field six candidates, two from each alliance party.
The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party is also firm on contesting four seats, and it is upto the government to ensure nominees get elected unopposed, a source in the saffron party said.
"If the MVA contests six seats, there will be an election. The BJP will field four candidates. There is no doubt about it," the source said.
Elections to the nine council seats which fell vacant on April 24 were postponed in view of the coronavirus outbreak, but last week the Election Commission set May 21 as the poll date.
This was after Governor B S Koshyari acted on a letter of the chief minister and urged the EC to hold the elections to allow Thackeray, who is at present not a member of either of the House of the Legislature, to fulfil the constitutional obligation of getting elected as a legislator.
Thackeray took oath as chief minister on November 28 last year and per constitutional norms, he has to become member of the legislature within six months to continue in the post.
The Shiv Sena has decided to field Thackeray and council deputy chairperson Neelam Gorhe in the polls.
The NCP is likely to retain Hemant Takle for another term, but has not declared its candidates so far.
The Congress has also not announced its nominees, but senior party leader Naseem Khan, who lost the last year's assembly polls, is among the front-runners.
Senior BJP leader Eknath Khadse said he has conveyed to his party that he is interested in being a member of the Legislative Council.
"I am interested in state politics and I want to be a member of the Legislative Council," he said.
Khadse said the BJP can win four seats as it has 105 members in the assembly, and 11 members of smaller parties and Independents are also supporting the BJP.
"These members have given in writing that they will be with the BJP on the floor of the House," he said.
The quota for a winning candidate is 29 votes.
If the MVA contests six seats, it will need 174 votes while the BJP will need 116 votes.
During the MVA government's trust vote in the state assembly last year, the ruling alliance had got 169 votes.
The MLCs whose terms ended on April 24 are -- Neelam Gorhe (Shiv Sena), Chandrakant Raghuvanshi and Haribhau Rathod (Congress), Kiran Pawaskar, Hemant Takle, Anand Thakur (NCP), Smita Wagh, Prithviraj Deshmukh and Arun Adsad (BJP).
In the 288-member state assembly, party-wise position is as follows: BJP-105, Shiv Sena-56, NCP-54, Congress-44, Bahujan Vikas Aghadi-three, Samajwadi Party, Prahar Janshakti Party and AIMIM-two each, Peasants and Workers Party, Swabhimani Paksh, Krantikari Shetkari Paksh, Rashtriya Samaj Paksh, Jansurajya Shakti Party, CPM, MNS-one each and Independents-13.
The notification for the council polls on issued on May 4.
The last day of filing nominations is May 11.
The scrutiny of papers will be done on May 12 and nominations can be withdrawn till May 14.
The polls are scheduled for May 21 and results will be announced the same day.