In a huge setback to Maharashtra’s ruling coalition, a court today rejected bail for two arrested leaders, Nawab Malik and Anil Deshmukh, whose votes were critical in the Rajya Sabha elections to be held tomorrow.
The setback came a day before an election in which every vote will count and decisions may go down to the wire.
Nawab Malik, a Maharashtra Minister, has been in jail since his arrest in February by the Enforcement Directorate in a money laundering case. The state’s former home minister Anil Deshmukh is also in jail on similar allegations.
They had requested a day’s bail to cast their vote in the Rajya Sabha election on Friday, but the court agreed with the Enforcement Directorate’s argument that “prisoners do not have voting rights”.
Both are members of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), which, along with the Congress, is a part of the Shiv Sena-led alliance.
At the same time, the opposition BJP today scored an advantage as its leader Devendra Fadnavis tested native for Covid, which means he can vote tomorrow.
Elections will be held for six Rajya Sabha seats in Maharashtra and with seven candidates, there will be a contest in the state for the first time in more than two decades.
The Shiv Sena has fielded two candidates, Sanjay Raut and Sanjay Pawar. The opposition BJP has put up three candidates – Union minister Piyush Goyal, Anil Bonde and Dhananjay Mahadik.
Ruling coalition allies NCP and Congress have nominated one candidate each, Praful Patel and Imran Pratapgarhi.
Any candidate needs 42 votes to win a Rajya Sabha seat.
The Shiv Sena-led Maha Vikas Aghadi has the numbers to win three out of the six Rajya Sabha seats for which 288 MLAs will vote.
The BJP, which had 106 members in the assembly, can win two on its own but has fielded a third, setting up a contest for the sixth seat, between the BJP’s Dhananjay Mahadik and the Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Pawar.
Smaller parties and independents – they account for 29 MLAs – will play a big role in deciding who wins.
The BJP has 22 excess votes and claims it has the support of seven independent MLAs. It is trying to close the gap by winning the support of 13 more.
The Sena, NCP and Congress moved their MLAs to resorts to prevent any betrayals and crossvoting.
The coalition has 26 excess votes and needs 16 to win the sixth seat.
The BJP has also sequestered its members, with former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis reaching out to independent MLAs for support.