After facing a setback in the Rajya Sabha elections where it failed to win the sixth Rajya Sabha seat, the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) is bracing for another tense electoral battle with the BJP in the council be held elections slated to on Monday. Eleven candidates — five from the BJP and six from the MVA — are in the fray for the 10 seats that are up for grabs. The Sena and the NCP have the numbers to elect two candidates each, but the fight will boil down to the Congress and the BJP. While the Congress has fielded two candidates when it has numbers to elect only one, the BJP, which has fielded five candidates, has numbers for only four. Both the parties will, therefore, need numbers from their respective allies to see their candidates through.
A look at the 11 candidates in the fray:
Aamshya Padvi, 54 (Shiv Sena): The 54-year-old Padvi hails from the tribal-dominated district of Nandurbar. He started his political career as sarpanch of Ankushvihir village in Akkakalkuwa taluka. Initially with the NCP, Padvi jumped ship to join the Shiv Sena in 2014 and within two years, was made district head of the party. He was previously given a Sena ticket from Akkakalkuwa in the 2014 Assembly election where he ended up as a distant fourth, getting around 10,000 votes. However, in the 2019 elections, Padvi put up a tough fight, losing to the Congress candidate by merely 2,000-odd votes. Padvi’s nomination is seen as an outreach by the Shiv Sena for the tribal vote and to make inroads in Nandurbar.
Sachin Ahir, 50 (Shiv Sena): Ahir started off as a trade union leader and was associated with the Rashtriya Mill Mazdoor Sangh. A nephew of gangster Aruin Gawli, Ahir, however, charted his independent political trajectory when he joined the NCP and was elected to the Assembly in 2004 from Sewri. He was reelected in 2009 from Worli and was made the Housing Minister in the Congress-NCP government. The NCP also made him the Mumbai city president. He, however, lost the 2014 Assembly elections to the Shiv Sena’s Sunil Shinde. His political trajectory changed again in 2019 when he was co-opted by the Shiv Sena. Ahir has a considerable following in Worli, which was a constituency identified by Shiv Sena’s heir apparent Aditya Thackeray to contest his first election. The Shiv Sena’s top brass managed to convince Ahir to join the party to clear the roadblocks for Thackeray’s elections.
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Bhai Jagtap, 65 (Congress): Jagtap is a trade union leader and was elected on a Congress ticket from Khetwadi in 2004. He, however, lost his reelection bid in 2009 and has since then been rehabilitated by the party for two terms in the Maharashtra Legislative Council. The Congress had appointed him as head of the Mumbai Congress in December 2020. His nomination to the Legislative Council comes in view of the impending Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation elections with the keen party on projecting an image that it rewards loyalists.
Chandrakant Handore, 65 (Congress): Handore started off his political carrer as a Dalit activist becoming a corporator in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation in 1985. Handrore, who was associated with the Republican Party of India, served as the mayor of Mumbai in 1992-93, at a time when the city saw its worst communal violence after the Babri Masjid demolition. He went on to join the Congress, winning the 2004 Assembly elections from Chembur and was made a Cabinet minister. He was reelected in 2009 but was dropped from the ministry. Handore’s nomination is an attempt by the Congress to project a Dalit face in the council council.
Eknath Khadse, 69 (NCP): Khadse, who hails from Muktainagar in Jalgaon district, started his political career with the BJP and was elected on a BJP ticket for six consecutive terms from 1989. Once considered among the tallest leaders in the state BJP, Khadse had a fall out with Devendra Fadnavis. and was forced to resign as a minister from the BJP government in 2016 over charges of corruption and irregularities in a land deal. Khadse has over the last few years blamed Fadnavis for his decision to quit the party. In 2020, a disgruntled Khadse was inducted into the NCP. His nomination in the Council is seen as an attempt by the NCP to politically rehabilitate Khadse. By taking away one of the founding members of the BJP in Maharashtra, the NCP had scored over the BJP. It is, however, yet to be seen if Khadse can help the NCP strengthen its base in north Maharashtra, from where he hails. The NCP will also hope that the OBC leader’s presence in the party will help the NCP, which is seen as a largely Maratha party, to expand its social base and reach out to the OBCs.
Ramraje Naik Nimbalkar, 74 (NCP): The Maratha leader who hails from Phaltan in Satara district, started off as an Independent MLA supporting the Shiv Sena-BJP government and was made a minister. He subsequently joined the NCP, winning the 1999 and 2004 Assembly seats from Phaltan constituency, and served as a minister in successful Congress-NCP governments. After his constituency was affected by delimitation, Nimbalkar was made a member of the Legislative Council in 2010 by the NCP. In 2015, he was made the Chairman of the Maharashtra Legislative Council.
Uma Khapre, 58 (BJP): Khapre, who started off as a corporator in the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation, was in 2000 made chief of the state BJP women’s wing. Though she has led various agitations against the MVA government, the low-profile Khapre’s nomination came as a surprise to many in the BJP.
Shrikant Bhartiya, 57 (BJP): Hailing from Amravati, Bhartiya started off his political career as a member of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad. Bhartiya is known as a back-room operator and strategist with close access to Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis.
Pravin Darekar, 53 (BJP): Darekar started off his political career with the Shiv Sena’s student wing, the Vidyarthi Sena, where he worked closely with Raj Thackeray. Darekar followed Raj Thackeray into the Maharashtra Navnir Sena. He went on to become a MLA from Magathane in 2009 but failed to retain his seat in the 2014 elections. In 2014, Darekar joined the BJP, which made him a member of the Legislative Council. Darekar has since developed a close working relationship with Fadnavis and was made Leader of Opposition in the Maharashtra Legislative Council in 2016. Darekar, who once headed the Mumbai District Central Cooperative Bank, is now facing action after an FIR was registered by the MVA government against him for allegedly using bogus membership of a labor society to get elected as director of the bank.
Ram Shinde, 54 (BJP): Hailing from Karjat Jamkhed in Ahmednagar district, Shinde has been associated with the BJP since 1997. He was elected from Karjat Jamkhed in 2009 and reelected in 2014, after which he was made a minister in the Devendra Fadnavis government. Shinde hails from the Dhangar community and was made Cabinet Minister in charge of the Jalyukt Shivar scheme which was a flagship project of the Fadnavis government. Shinde, however, lost the 2019 Assembly elections to the NCP’s Rohit Pawar.
Prasad Lad, 51 (BJP): With assets of Rs 152 crore, Lad is the richest candidate in the fray for the Legislative Council elections. Lad started his political career with the NCP, which made him the chairman of Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority. He contested the 2014 Assembly elections from Sion Koliwada on an NCP ticket but lost. Soon after, he joined the BJP and worked closely with Fadnavis. Within two years of his joining, in 2016, Lad got an entry into the Legislative Council. He is known to be a backroom operator and a close associate of Fadnavis and has been at the forefront of taking on the MVA government.