A senior Congress leader said on condition of anonymity today that both the Sena and Congress would withdraw their candidates and support Shrikant Deshpande, an independent, against NCP's Ramraje Naik-Nimbalkar.

Congress's Sharad Ranpise and Shiv Sena's Neelam Gorhe have filed nominations. BJP has announced that it will abstain from the election.

The Congress leader claimed that Deshpande hadsupport of 34 legislators in the 78-member upper house, while NCP, too, is claiming that it has support of as many MLCs.

"If BJP abstains from voting, it will be a close contest. If BJP votes in favour of Nimbalkar, he will be elected and we will again succeed in proving that it has a tacit understanding with NCP," the Congress leader said.

Sena leader Ramdas Kadam alleged that BJP's abstention meant it was supporting NCP secretly.

"The CM (Devendra Fadnavis) has assured us that BJP will abstain from voting. Why can't they vote against NCP if they really don't have a secret deal?" Kadam asked.     

The election became necessary after the no-confidence motion against Deshmukh, tabled by NCP, was passed. NCP, the largest party in the Council, got BJP's votes, which has riled Shiv Sena, the ruling alliance partner.

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