Amid hectic political parleys underway for the Maharashtra Legislative Council elections scheduled on Monday, MLAs of the ruling Shiv Sena have apparently conveyed their leadership that they do not want transfer their excess votes to nominees of allies Congress and Nationalist Congress Party.
"This is the view of the Shiv Sena MLAs. Let's see what the leadership decides. The Sena has six-seven excess votes," a party legislator told PTI on Sunday, on condition of anonymity.
The legislator said the Sena MLAs do not want to take a chance in the wake of the setback in the June 10 Rajya Sabha polls, where the party's second nominee Sanjay Pawar, who was leading in the first round, was defeated by Bharatiya Janata Party's Dhananjay Mahadik.
After being outwitted by the BJP in the Rajya Sabha polls, the Shiv Sena-led Maha Vikas Aghadi, which comprises the NCP and Congress, is now facing the challenge of getting all its six candidates elected to the Maharashtra Legislative Council in the polls on Monday.
The MLAs of the three ruling parties and the BJP have reached Mumbai ahead of the elections.
They have been kept in hotels at different locations in the city.
The MVA allies and the BJP were holding discussions as well as reaching out to leaders of smaller parties and Independents to devise their strategy for winning the polls.
Leaders of the ruling allies will also meet Chief Minister and Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray in the evening.
A total of 11 candidates are in the fray for the 10 seats up for grabs, with the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress fielding two candidates each.
The BJP has nominated five candidates.
Unlike the Rajya Sabha polls, where MLAs were required to show their ballot paper to their respective party's authorised representative after casting vote, the Legislative Council elections will be held through secret ballot, raising apprehensions of cross-voting and keeping the contestants guessing about the stand of independents and smaller parties.
According to Maharashtra Vidhan Bhawan's former principal secretary Anant Kalse, a candidate can give his or her vote preference by writing the numbers either in Roman (like I, II, III), standard system (1, 2, 3) or using the Devnagari script.
As the Election Commission has permitted a voter to use either of the three formats, parties generally divide their MLAs into two or three groups, a political expert said.
"The members of each group are asked to cast their votes using one specific format. For example, if there are three groups, one group is asked to vote using the Roman numbers, while other two are asked to vote using the other two formats," he said.
"Since the MLC election voting is held by secret ballot, a party officially cannot ask its MLAs to reveal their vote preference. But, with the designated use of numbers, the party can narrow down on its MLAs and may find out if any of its member indulged in cross-voting,” he added.
The nine retiring members of the Legislative Council are its present chairman Ramraje Naik Nimbalkar, Sanjay Daund (both NCP), Leader of Opposition Pravin Darekar, Sujitsinh Thakur, Prasad Lad (all BJP), Maratha leader Vinayak Mete and former minister Sadabhau Khot (both allies of the BJP), state Industries Minister Subhash Desai and Diwakar Raote (both Shiv Sena).
The tenth seat fell vacant following the death of BJP MLC R N Singh.
The NCP has fielded Ramraje Naik Nimbalkar and former minister Eknath Khadse, who had quit the BJP to join the Sharad Pawar-led party.
The Shiv Sena has nominated Sachin Ahir and Amshya Padvi, a party functionary from the tribal-dominated Nandurbar district.
The Congress has fielded its Mumbai unit chief Bhai Jagtap and former minister Chandrakant Handore.
The BJP has renominated outgoing MLCs Darekar and Lad, and given tickets to Ram Shinde, Uma Khapre and Shrikant Bharatiya.
The MLAs form the electoral college for the MLC elections.
The effective strength of the 288-member Maharashtra House is reduced to 285 following the death of Shiv Sena MLA Ramesh Latke, while two NCP MLAs -Nawab Malik and Anil Deshmukh - are currently in jail and are not allowed to vote by the high court.
Smaller parties and Independents account for 25 MLAs.
The quota for first preference votes per candidate to win the MLC polls is 26.
The BJP has 106 MLAs in the House, Shiv Sena-55, Congress-44 and NCP-52.
Given its strength in the Assembly, the BJP can get four of the five candidates elected, the Sena and the NCP two each, and the Congress one.
Leaders of the Congress and NCP are holding talks with smaller parties and Independents for support.
They had also held discussions with Shiv Sena president and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to fine-tune the MVA's strategy for the polls.
Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly Devendra Fadnavis, credited for Mahadik's victory in the RS polls, has expressed confidence that all five nominees of the BJP will get elected to the Upper House of the state legislature.
However, senior NCP leader and deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar had said they will show their 'skill' in the polls.