With the presidential election seeing cross-voting in many states, mostly in favour of NDA candidate Ram Nath Kovind, the Congress suffered a setback on Thursday, especially in poll-bound Gujarat. Barely four months ahead of the Gujarat Assembly elections, the Congress found that eight of its MLAs had voted in favour of Kovind. Three of its MLAs cross-voted in Goa too.
Another shock for the Opposition came from Maharasthra, where the Congress and NCP have 83 MLAs, Samajwadi Party has one and CPI(M) one. The AIMIM has two MLAs and the Peasants and Workers Party of India has three. But Opposition candidate Meira Kumar managed to get only 77 votes. State Congress president Ashok Chavan said it was difficult to say who had cross-voted, as there was no whip. But in Rajasthan, where Assembly elections are due next year, the Congress claimed that six BJP MLAs had voted in favour of Kumar.There was cross-voting in other states too:
There was cross-voting in other states too:
* In West Bengal, Ram Nath Kovind got 11 votes. The BJP has three MLAs and was expecting five votes. It is not clear where it got the remaining votes from.
* In Uttar Pradesh, Meira Kumar should have got 73 votes (Samajwadi Party 47, BSP 19, Congress 7), but got only 65. Kovind got 335 votes.
* In Delhi, two Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLAs cross-voted. The BJP-led alliance, which has four MLAs in the Assembly, got six votes.
* In Assam, Meira Kumar should have got 39 votes, but managed to get only 35. The BJP, which was expecting 87, got 91.
* In Arunachal Pradesh, where the entire Congress Legislature Party barring former chief minister Nabam Tuki left the party, the Congress got three votes. “I am the only MLA here. It is good we got three votes,” Tuki told The Indian Express.
There has been unrest in the Gujarat Congress for some time now. Leader of Opposition Shankersinh Vaghela is upset with the party leadership for not declaring him as the chief ministerial candidate for the Assembly elections due in December. He has called a gathering of his supporters to “share his feelings” and announce his “plans” on his birthday on Friday.
Sources said Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has called Vaghela to Delhi. AICC general secretary in charge of Gujarat, Ashok Gehlot, said he has sought a report from the state party unit. The Congress has 57 MLAs in Gujarat, but Kumar got only 49 votes. None of the votes were declared invalid. Unlike in the Rajya Sabha elections, voting in Presidential elections is done by secret ballot, making it difficult for the parties to identify those who have cross-voted.
This is bad news for Ahmed Patel, political secretary to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who is retiring from the Rajya Sabha next month. According to sources, Patel is likely to be fielded by the party again, and today’s development has injected an element of uncertainty over his victory. Of the three vacant seats from Gujarat, the Congress has the numbers to get one of its nominee elected.
The Congress was taken aback by the cross-voting in Goa, where party leaders have been publicly stating that they are working to topple the Manohar Parikkar Government. Kumar managed to get the votes of only 11 of the 16 Congress MLAs in the state. Party sources said three voted in favour of Ram Nath Kovind, while two votes were found invalid.
While newly-appointed Goa Congress president Shantaram Naik refused to comment, AICC in-charge A Chella Kumar said “such things happen in small states…crossover happens…we are investigating.” He said all the MLAs, even those who voted for the BJP, know “that the people of the state are against the BJP government. Those who voted for the BJP also know how much the people of their constituency are against the BJP.”
In Rajasthan, while the BJP got more votes than its total strength, the Congress too got 10 additional votes. The Congress has 24 MLAs, but it got 34 votes. Party sources said six BJP MLAs, two independents and two BSP MLAs voted for Kumar. Senior BJP leader Bhupendra Yadav told The Indian Express that the party has 160 MLAs, but got 166 votes.
“It is time for the BJP to introspect. There is dissatisfaction, not just among the people but also among the BJP’s MLAs. The MLAs have sent a message to the leadership that all is not well with the government in Rajasthan and the Chief Minister should introspect,” said State Congress president Sachin Pilot.
Meanwhile, the BJP claimed it got a total of 116 additional votes. “We got more votes than expected in several states. In Jammu and Kashmir, we got 58 instead of 56. In Himachal Pradesh, we got 30 when we were expecting 26. In Madhya Pradesh we got 171, we were expecting 165. In Maharasthra we got 208 against 185, Karnataka 56 against 46, Tripura seven against zero, Puducherry 10 against zero, Chhattisgarh 52 against 47, Uttar Pradesh 335 against 324, Jharkhand 51 against 47, West Bengal 11 against 5, Assam 91 against 87,” said Bhupendra Yadav.
Asked about the cross-voting, Congress communication department head Randeep Surjewala said the Opposition’s unity was intact. He said the BJP had claimed that Ram Nath Kovind would get 70 per cent votes, but managed to get only around 65 per cent votes. “There has been cross-voting in favour of Meira Kumar also. In Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Nagaland…entire figures are still not available…we shall examine them,” he said.