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PTI

Voting is underway for six Rajya Sabha seats in Maharashtra at the Vidhan Bhavan, the state legislature complex here on Friday, with a close contest being played out between the state's ruling Shiv Sena and the opposition BJP for the sixth seat.

The polling process, which began at 9 am, will go on till 4 pm and the results will be declared in the evening.

There are a total of seven candidates in the fray for six seats. While the BJP has fielded Union minister Piyush Goyal, former state minister Anil Bonde and former MP Dhananjay Mahadik, the Shiv Sena has given opportunity to MP Sanjay Raut and Sanjay Pawar. From the NCP, Praful Patel is in the election ring, while the Congress has fielded Imran Pratapgarhi.

The contest is primarily for the sixth seat - between BJP's Mahadik and Sena's Pawar. This is after more than two decades that Maharashtra is witnessing a contest in the Rajya Sabha polls.

The 288-member Legislative Assembly is the electoral college for the biennial elections. But the total votes have come down to 285 since there is a vacancy due to the death of Shiv Sena MLA Ramesh Latke and a special court on Thursday rejecting the pleas filed by minister Nawab Malik and former minister Anil Deshmukh seeking a day's bail to vote in the elections.

After the special court's decision, Malik and Deshmukh, who are currently in jail in separate money laundering cases, on Thursday evening approached the Bombay High Court for relief. The high court is scheduled to hear their pleas in the morning.

Shiv Sena has 55 MLAs, NCP 53, Congress 44 , BJP 106, Bahujan Vikas Aghadi (BVA) three, Samajwadi party, AIMIM and Prahar Janshakti party two each, MNS, CPI(M), PWP, Swabhimani Party, Rashtriya Samaj Paksh, Jansurajya Shakti party, Krantikari Shetkari Party one each, and there are 13 independent legislators.

The quota for the first preference votes has come down to 41. Congress and NCP have decided to transfer their second preference votes to Shiv Sena's Sanjay Pawar.

For the last couple of days, the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) allies (Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress) and the opposition BJP had kept their respective legislators in different hotels in Mumbai, where the party leaders explained to them the process of preferential system of voting.

On Friday morning, BJP legislators were the first to arrive at the Vidhan Bhavan in three buses for voting.

Minister of State Dattatraya Bharne, who belongs to the NCP, was the first to cast his vote.

Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly Devendra Fadnavis, NCP leader and Home Minister Dilip Walse Patil, Food and Civil Supplies Minister Chhagan Bhujbal also arrived at the venue in the morning.

Bhujbal, a senior NCP leader, expressed confidence that all four candidates of the MVA will win. Congress leader and Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat also said that the MVA candidates will sail through comfortably in the first round.

Energy Minister Nitin Raut said the MVA is united, while state Congress chief Nana Patole said countdown has begun for the BJP to face defeat.

Health Minister Rajesh Tope, an NCP leader, said there were no differences among the MVA allies.

Meanwhile, ailing BJP MLA Laxman Jagtap is being brought to Mumbai in an ambulance from Pune for voting.

The All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) decided to vote in favour of the Congress candidate. The announcement was made by AIMIM Lok Sabha member from Aurangabad Imtiaz Jaleel hours before the polling began.

"Our 2 AIMIM Maharashtra MLAs have been asked to vote for @INCIndia candidate @ShayarImran for Rajya Sabha seat. We extend our best wishes to him! To defeat BJP, our party @aimim_national has decided to vote for Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) in the Rajya Sabha elections in Maharashtra...," he said in a tweet.

Meanwhile, describing AIMIM as the "B team" of the ruling alliance, BJP legislator Atul Bhatkalkar said that was the reason why its two legislators were supporting the MVA candidates.
 

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