The Congress may field former MLA Dileep Mane for the December 7 bypoll to the Maharashtra Legislative Council seat vacated by former chief minister Narayan Rane after he quit the opposition party. “We have almost finalised the name for this election. The candidate will submit his nomination tomorrow. Dileep Mane’s name has been recommended to the Congress headquarters,” a senior Congress leader said tonight. Leaders of the Congress and the NCP have been holding rounds of meetings for last few days to finalise the name of the nominee for the bypoll. November 27 is the last day for filing nomination for the bypoll. The scrutiny will be done on November 28 and the last date for withdrawal of nominations is November 30. BJP has not yet announced its candidate for the byelection, as the party is in a dilemma over fielding Rane due to stiff opposition by its alliance partner the Shiv Sena. Rane had in September announced his resignation from the Congress amid indications that he was veering towards an innings in the ruling BJP.
The 65-year-old Maratha leader, who was the chief minister in 1999 while in the Shiv Sena, had also resigned as a member of the Maharashtra Legislative Council. After quitting the Congress, Rane formed his new political party – Maharashtra Swabhiman Paksh. Last month, he said Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had invited him to join the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance. The BJP has 122 MLAs in the 288-member Maharashtra Assembly. Sena has 63 members in the lower house. The opposition Congress and the NCP have 42 and 41 MLAs, respectively. Besides, PWP (Peasants and Workers Party) and Bahujan Vikas Aghadi (BVA) have three members each, AIMIM has two members, Rashtriya Samaj Paksh, CPI(M), SP and MNS have one member each, besides eight independents.
The BJP enjoys the support of four independent legislators. The Shiv Sena, another major player in the state, despite being a partner in the ruling alliance, has expressed reservations over Rane’s entry into the NDA camp and his possible induction into the cabinet with a prime portfolio. According to political observers, the Sena’s role will be crucial in the upcoming byelection. If a sizable number of Sena MLAs remain absent or vote against Rane in the event of his contesting the poll the results could be shocking for the BJP, said an observer. Rane had lost the 2014 Assembly polls from Malvan. He made an attempt to enter the Assembly in April 2015 in a byelection from Bandra (East) but lost to the Sena candidate. He, however, was given ticket by the Congress to contest the Legislative Council election in June last year.