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Pawar, Deora seal RS berth

Mumbai, Jan. 28: Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, former petroleum minister Murli Deora and Dalit leader Ramdas Athawale are among seven Rajya Sabha nominees set to be elected unopposed from Maharashtra in elections next week.

NCP chief Pawar, an MP from Madha in western Maharashtra, had announced earlier that he would not contest the Lok Sabha elections.

Other than Pawar, criminal lawyer Majeed Memon is likely to be elected unopposed on an NCP ticket, as are Murli Deora and Hussain Dalwai of the Congress, industrialist Rajkumar Dhoot of the Shiv Sena and Athawale as part of a BJP-Sena alliance.

A similar outcome is expected for Pune construction magnate Sanjay Kakade, who has been pledged support by Independents.

The deadline for filing nominations for the February 7 polls ended today. The papers will be scrutinised tomorrow. Thursday is the last date for withdrawals.

Deora and Dalwai have been renominated by the Congress and Dhoot by the Shiv Sena. Four Rajya Sabha members from the state have retired. They are Y.P. Trivedi and Janardan Waghmare of the NCP, the Sena’s Bharatkumar Raut and the BJP’s Prakash Jawdekar.

Athawale, the last to file his nomination this afternoon, heads the Republican Party of India that is part of a four-way alliance with the Sena-BJP. The RPI has been bargaining for at least five Lok Sabha seats but the Sena and the BJP are likely to pacify Athawale with the Rajya Sabha berth.

The combine is likely to support the Swabhimani Party, the fourth member of the alliance, for two seats in western Maharashtra where its leader and MP Raju Shetty has spearheaded protests by sugarcane farmers.