But the saffron party not only scripted a surprise victory in the biennial elections, but managed to outfox the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) by winning the support of smaller parties as well as Independents for the crucial sixth seat.
Former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis is being credited for the BJP’s success in the Rajya Sabha elections in the state. The party managed to clinch 3 out of the 6 seats while the other 3 were divided between the ruling trio of Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP.
The party’s stunning victory was even acknowledged by veteran politician and NCP chief Sharad Pawar, who said Fadnavis performed a “miracle” by turning the independent MLAs in favour of his party, which had sufficient number of votes only to ensure the victory of its two candidates.
How the BJP gave a jolt to MVA
Political analysts told PTI that pulling off a win this way required a deep understanding of the arithmetic of counting of the electoral college and preferential voting pattern.
With micro-level planning and strategising, Fadnvais ensured that his gambit to allow the Rajya Sabha elections to take place paid off.
The bitter contest for the six seats of the Rajya Sabha that went to the wire saw three candidates of the BJP – Piyush Goyal, Anil Bonde and Dhananjay Mahadik – winning. Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut, NCP’s Praful Patel and Congress’s Imran Pratapgarhi also came out victorious. The contest was for the sixth seat – between BJP’s Mahadik and Sena’s Sanjay Pawar, who lost.
In Maharashtra, the quota of first preference votes needed by each candidate to win was 41.
The BJP has 106 MLAs in the state, which meant that it had the requisite numbers to secure victories for just two candidates.
The sum of first preference votes of its three candidates – Goyal (48), Bonde (48) and Mahadik (27) comes to 123 votes. It indicates that the BJP received 17 votes from independents and small parties.
Meanwhile, MVA’s Raut, Pratapgarhi, and Patel got 41, 44 and 43 first preference votes respectively.
But since Goyal and Bonde bagged 48 first preference votes each, they were the top two candidates. And as per the preferential system of counting, the second preference votes of those who get the highest number of first preference votes are counted first.
Accordingly, Mahadik got a value of 96 votes as second preference in his kitty, i.e. the second preference votes of all those MLAs who voted for Goyal and Bonde.
Plus, he also bagged 27 first preference votes, which included 10 excess votes of the BJP as well as the smaller parties and independents supporting it.
Mahadik managed an upper hand over Sena’s Pawar since the BJP weaned away 8 to 9 MLAs, who were either independent or from smaller parties, and who were in favour of the MVA.
The observers said that the MVA bagged 161 votes, which included 149 from the three alliance partners – Shiv Sena 54, NCP 51 and Congress 44.
One vote of the Sena was declared invalid and NCP’s two MLAs – Nawab Malik and Anil Deshmukh, both currently in jail, were not allowed to vote by the court. Thus, the MVA got just 12 additional votes. Sena’s Pawar lost as the 8 to 9 votes, which the alliance was counting, went to the BJP.
“Generally, small parties or independents do not go against the ruling coalition because they could bargain or trade with the government in such elections. Many times, such MLAs or small parties secure promises from the government to give more funds to their proposals or implement schemes on priority in their constituencies. Despite that, the BJP managed to bag 17 such votes,” a retired constitutional expert said.
However, the game-changing strategy, which many BJP leaders attributed to Fadnavis, was the counting of electoral college and preferential votes.
Anant Kalse, former principal secretary of the state legislature said, “During the counting of votes for the Rajya Sabha election, the ballot papers are counted and a list of candidates and their votes is prepared in a descending order. No candidate for the sixth position could secure the mandatory quota of 41 votes, prompting the election officials to go for the counting of second preferential votes.”
“Here the BJP outsmarted the MVA constituents. Not every candidate’s surplus votes are counted, but second preferential votes of top two candidates are taken into consideration. With Goyal and Bonde winning 48 votes each, they became the top two candidates in this elections. It seems BJP has ensured that all MLAs who voted for Goyal or Bonde, gave their second preferential vote to its third candidate Mahadik,” he said.
Sena’s second candidate Pawar received 33 votes of first preference, but no candidate of MVA could make it to the top two list. Thus, the surplus votes of the NCP and Congress could not be transferred to their ally and the fourth candidate of the MVA, he said.
“It needs a very in-depth understanding of the election process to make such moves and ensure the victory of third candidate despite not having sufficient votes in hand,” Kalse said.
A senior political analyst said, “The MVA was formed in November 2019 when it had the support of 162 MLAs, including small parties and independents. Sena had won 56, NCP 54 and Congress 44, while BJP won 105 and later it won a byelection to increase its number of MLAs to 106.”
“Despite the MVA gaining support of AIMIM and CPI for RS election, the sum of first preferential votes of four candidates is 161. It means, some earlier supporters of MVA have moved away from the party,” he said.
(With inputs from PTI)