9 votes Shiv Sena failed to get for the sixth RS seat

It was a difference of nine votes that led to BJP’s Dhananjay Mahadik emerging triumphant over Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Pawar in a tense electoral battle for the sixth Rajya Sabha seat in Maharashtra.

The Shiv Sena publicly blamed six of its erstwhile supporters for failing to back the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA).

“We were on a slippery road and felt that if certain people had stayed true to the word that they had given us, we would have won. We have not got votes from Hitendra Thakur and his Bahujan Vanchit Aghadi (BVA), Karmala MLA Sanjaya Mama Shinde, Nanded’s Shinde (Shyamsundar Shinde) and Devendra Bhuyar,” Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut said.

Many of these men had sworn fealty to the MVA when it was formed the government in 2019 but seemed to have gradually grown disillusioned alliance with the MVA leaders, having attacked Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, over the last two years.

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The Indian Express takes a look at the men behind the nine votes that the Sena failed to procure on Friday.

Suhas Kande: The Election Commission of India declares the vote of Shiv Sena MLA Suhas Kande as invalid after the BJP alleged violation of rules, which delayed the counting of votes till early Saturday. While 43-year-old Kande has sworn fidelity to the Sena, the MLA from Nandgaon in Nashik, has shared an uneasy relationship with the MVA government, which even saw him move the Bombay High Court seeking the removal of senior NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal as the guardian minister of Nashik district.

Kande, who once had a series of cases lodged against him and even had externment proceedings against him by the Nashik Police in the mid-2000s, had started off with the MNS. Seen as close to Bhujbal at one point, Kande later jumped ship and joined the Shiv Sena, unsuccessfully contesting the 2014 Assembly elections against Bhujbal’s son Pankaj in Nandgaon. In 2019, however, he managed to dislodge the Bhujbal family from Nandgaon, defeating Pankaj by 13,889 votes.

The formation of the MVA government and the appointment of Bhujbal as Nashik’s guardian minister ratted Kande, as he felt that Bhujbal was out to finish his political career. This conflict even saw the two having public confrontations during government meetings.

An all-out struggle for his own political survival prompted Kande to move HC last September seeking the removal of Bhujbal as Nashik’s guardian minister. With no end in sight for the NCP-Shiv Sena bonhomie in Maharashtra immediate, Kande’s is deemed to be hedging political future in case the alliance lasts till the 2024 elections. In 2019, Kande had defeated Pankaj Bhujbal in Nandgaon, but he fears the seat may be sacrificed by the Sena if the alliance continues.

While Kande is said to have been angry about the treatment he was meted out, publicly, so far, he has sworn his loyalty to the Sena.

Thakurs of BVA: Hitendra Thakur is a six-time MLA from Vasai and his BVA has a strong presence in the semi-urban centers of Virar, Vasai and Nalasopara in Palghar. His brother Bhai Thakur is a convicted gangster and TADA detenue known for his association with Dawood Ibrahim. The BVA currently has three MLAs in the Assembly, including Thakur’s son Kshitij — a two-time MLA from Nalasopara — and Rajesh Patil, a two-time MLA from Boisar.

After 2019, the party had extended its support to the MVA government. Earlier this year, the Thakur family had, however, come under the scanner of the Enforcement Directorate, which had searched the offices of Viva Group run by the family in connection with its probe into the alleged Rs 6,200 crore fraud perpetrated by Housing Development Infrastructure Limited at Punjab and Maharashtra Co-operative Bank.

While Thakur was being wooed by both the BJP and the MVA in the run up to the Rajya Sabha polls, Thakur did not commit to either side. As per the Sena, Thakur is said to have allied himself with the BJP and voted for the party.

Thakur in the past has spoken about the inaccessibility of important MVA leaders and there was discontent brewing over what was deemed to be the haughty behavior of the ruling party. He was also angry over the appointment of an administrator in the Vasai Virar Municipal Corporation.

“I have voted for the right person in the right manner,” Hitendra said after the polls.

Sanjay Shinde: Sanjaymama Shinde (52) is an Independent MLA from Karmala in Solapur district. His elder brother Baban Shinde was a MLA from NCP who groomed him into politics. In 2014, Sanjaymama, due to a turf battle with Ranjitsinh Mohite Patil, quit the NCP to join the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatna on whose ticket he unsuccessfully contested the 2014 Assembly polls from Karnala. In 2019, Sanjaymama contested the elections from Karmala as an independent with the backing of the NCP.

Soon after, he had announced that he would back the MVA government.

“When the MVA government was being formed, there were a number of offers made to me by Uddhav Thackeray who called me home. The Sena, which is accusing me today, should answer which of these offers I ever accepted. Sena leaders were with me when I cast my vote. I did what they told me to do,” Sanjaymama said when asked about Sena’s allegation that he had not cast his vote in favor of the Sena candidate.

Devendra Bhuyar: The 33 year old represents Morshi in Amravati. While the young aggressive Bhuyar had won his election on a Swabhimani Paksha ticket, he shared an uneasy relationship with the cadre and party boss Raju Shetti, who earlier this year had expelled him from the party.

Bhuyar is deemed to be close to Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and has frequently been sharing the dias with NCP leaders on public forums. He has, however, openly expressed his unhappiness over the functioning of Shiv Sena president and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray in the past.

On allegations of cross-voting, Bhuyar said, “I was with the MVA from the day of its inception and even before the Shiv Sena decided to join this alliance. Sanjay Raut is not God that he will know whether I voted for the alliance or not. I have not back-stabbed anyone. It is a fact that I am unhappy with the functioning of the chief minister. My issues with him are not personal but because he has failed to give me time to address the concerns of my constituency. However, questioning the CM does not mean I am against the MVA.”

Shyamsundar Dagdoji Shinde:
The 67 year old is a first-time MLA of Peasants and Workers Party of India, representing Loha in Nanded. Former IAS officer, Shinde, won the Loha seat by 50,000 votes. Shinde, who is related to serving IPS officers in the state, was at one point of time expected to join the NCP. He could not be reached for comment.

Nawab Malik & Anil Deshmukh: Both the NCP MLAs are currently in judicial custody and failed to get the nod from the judiciary to step out of jail and vote in the Rajya Sabha elections.

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