In a rare instance of political accommodation between the two rival national parties, the BJP on Monday withdrew its candidate Sanjay Upadhyay from the October 4 Rajya Sabha bypoll, paving the way for Congress candidate Rajni Patil’s unopposed victory.
The bypoll was necessitated by the death of sitting Congress MP Rajiv Satav in May. The 63-year-old Patil is Satav’s sister, and she thanked the BJP for enabling a no contest.
The BJP had earlier come under criticism from political rivals for putting up a candidate and breaking a convention that if a sitting member dies, the seat will not be contested, and will be filled unopposed by the same party to which the late candidate belonged.
As well, the BJP did not have the numbers to defeat Patil, who was contesting as the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi’s (MVA) candidate.
The BJP took the decision to withdraw from contest at the core committee meeting held on Monday. The decision, announced by Maharashtra BJP president Chandrakant Patil, came days after Congress president Nana Patole and Balasahen Thorat, a senior minister in the MVA government, met Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly, Devendra Fadnavis.
“The party’s decision is supreme. If the party has decided to withdraw my candidature, I accept with all humility. I am an obedient worker,” Upadhyay said.
Fadnavis said when Patole and Thorat came to meet him, they made a case for a consensus candidate for the seat as a tribute to Satav. “Accordingly, I had given them assurance it would be considered. But since the formal decision is taken by core committee, we took the decision today,” Fadnavis said.
Thorat and Patole had met Fadnavis within 24 hours of the state BJP chief threatening to have the Congress candidate disqualified. “We have a strategy in place to upset the Congress candidate in the bypoll. We will open our cards at the appropriate time,” Patil had said. But he was left red-faced by Fadnavis’ assurance the very next day to Patole and Thorat that the BJP would withdraw.
Reacting to the outcome, Patole said, “I am grateful to Fadnavis for keeping his promise given to a friend.”
Thorat added, “It has been a long established tradition in Maharashtra to honour the sitting member by not having any poll. In the past, Congress and NCP did not field candidates against BJP after the death of Pramod Mahajan. There are several such instances. I am happy BJP has kept the tradition intact.”
Rajani Patil said, “I express my heartfelt thanks to BJP. My election to Rajya Sabha is a tribute to my younger brother Rajiv Satav.”
It is doubtful if Upadhyay would have won had he remained in the contest. The 288 members in state Legislative Assembly constitute the electoral college of Rajya Sabha polls. In terms of numbers, Congress (44), NCP (54) and Shiv Sena (56) together added to 154 members. The Congress had projected Patil as the MVA candidate. The BJP only had 105 members.
The remaining 29 members represent smaller parties and independents. Of these, MVA claim support of 15 members and BJP 14 members.