Pawar man elected Maharashtra Council chief

Ramraje Naik-Nimbalkar was minister in previous govt

Ramraje Naik-Nimbalkar, a close confidant of NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, was elected unopposed as Chairman of the Maharashtra Legislative Council on Friday, amid hectic back-room negotiations.

Naik-Nimbalkar hails from the royal family of Phaltan in the Satara district of Maharashtra, and had served as a minister in the erstwhile Congress-NCP Democratic Front government. He replaces the Congress’ Shivajirao Deshmukh, who earlier this week was removed by an NCP-sponsored no-confidence motion supported by the BJP. The Congress voted against it, while the Shiv Sena abstained.

Besides Nimbalkar, the three other MLCs in the race were the Congress’ Sharad Ranpise, the Shiv Sena’s Dr Neelam Gorhe and independent MLC from Amravati teachers' constituency, Shrikant Deshpande, who is close to the Shiv Sena.

The Council’s strength is 78. The NCP has 28 members, followed by the Congress (21), the BJP (12), seven each of the Shiv Sena and Independents, and one each of the Lok Bharti, the People’s Republican Party and the PWP. The issue was sorted out after Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis spoke to Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray. The arithmetic was simple—the NCP was the single largest party and has a few independents to support it.

The Shiv Sena initially thought of withdrawing Dr Gorhe as the Congress high-command would asked Congress MLCs not to support the Sena candidate. There was also talk of the Shiv Sena and the Congress supporting the independent candidate. However, the Shiv Sena later decided against it as it would require the support of the BJP in the by-elections in Bandra-East.

“We decided not to participate in voting and boycotted it as both the Congress and the NCP are our political opponents… the Shiv Sena and BJP are together,” said Revenue Minister Eknath Khadse of the BJP, accompanied by senior Shiv Sena leader and Environment Minister Ramdas Kadam.

“The chief minister and Uddhavji spoke and we decided not to contest…the Shiv Sena and BJP are together,” said Kadam.

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