Union Minister Nirmala Seetharaman and Congress’ Jairam Ramesh, Oscar Fernandes and K C Ramamurthy on Saturday won Rajya Sabha seats from Karnataka in the biennial elections highlighted by cross voting from JDS and votes for cash controversy.
Dissidence-hit JD(S) suffered a humiliating blow with eight of its MLAs cross voting in favour of Congress, with the party admitting it even before the polling deadline ended.
Congress’ candidate, former IPS official K C Ramamurthy pulled off a resounding victory as he secured 52 votes, aided by the support of Independents and JDS rebel MLAs.
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Congress with 122 members was assured of two seats for former Union ministers Jairam Ramesh and Oscar Fernandes, but with a surplus of 33 votes, the party fielded Ramamurthy.
The required strength for victory is 45 votes. Nirmala Seetharaman secured 46 votes with BJP, which with 44 members was short of one vote, making up the shortfall comfortably.
In a loss of face, eight JD(S) MLAs defied the party whip voting against party candidate businessman B M Farooq and supported Congress, as the red-faced party said it would take action against them at a meeting here on Sunday. Farooq secured 33 votes against the party’s strength of 40.
“8 MLA’s have voted against JD(S) in Rajya Sabh election on Saturday in favour of Congress. In the party meeting on Sunday, we are going to take action against them according to provisions of the party constitution,” JD(S) spokesman Ramesh Babu said.
Rebel MLAs who cross-voted, Zameer Ahmed Khan, Chaluvaraya Swamy, Iqbal Ansari, Balakrishna, Ramesh Bandisiddegowda, Gopalaiah, Bheema Nayak and Akhanda Srinivas Murthy, Babu, admitted the loss much before polls ended.
A furious JD(S) chief and former Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy called them the “cancer” for the party.
Speaking to reporters after casting their votes, the rebel MLAs held that the “attitude” of party leaders-H D Deve Gowda and Kumaraswamy, was the reason for their decision.
“Eight of us have voted against the whip. We have shown it to our party agent. Our candidate was fielded without taking us into confidence, with a plan of taking support of Independents,” Chaluvaraya Swamy said.
The open defiance by eight MLAs has come as a rude shock to JD(S) as only five rebels were expected to indulge in cross voting.
Rebel JD(S) MLAs had also indulged in cross-voting in the biennial elections to fill seven seats of the Karnataka Legislative Council from Legislative assembly held on Friday.
Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said along with Congress and Independents, JD(S) MLAs have voted for party’s candidates reposing faith in the government and its work.
He said JD(S) lost because of infighting and Congress should not be blamed for cross voting.
He said, “They have voted in favour of pro-public work done by our government in last three years. It is clear from the results.”
The ruling Congress had invested much prestige into the elections and pulled out all stops to win the third seat but not without facing charges of luring MLAs with enticements.
A cloud of uncertainty had hung over the elections after allegations of vote for cash with “sting” operations by two TV channels, but it was ended with the Election Commission giving the go ahead, rejecting the demand for countermanding it.
The footage by one channel showed a JD(S) MLA purportedly talking about money in crores of Rupees for supporting a candidate.
A parallel ‘sting’ operation by another channel showed Congress candidate Ramamurthy and Independent MLAs purportedly speaking about getting increased development funds for the constituency from the government in return for votes.
High drama also marked the run-up to the polls with the Congress shepherding Independent MLAs to Mumbai, apparently to keep its flock together, triggering a political storm with the Opposition accusing it of buying votes.
The development also saw the Returning Officer for Rajya Sabha polls, S Murthy, asking the Chief Minister to clarify if he has promised increased development funds to legislators in return for their votes, which he promptly denied.
Nirmala Seetharaman has stepped into the shoes of Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu, who had won three Rajya Sabha terms from Karnataka. He was elected from Rajasthan on Saturday.
Amid mounting public pressure, including protests by Kannada groups against re-nomination of Naidu, BJP decided to field Seetharaman in his place.
A social media campaign was launched against Naidu’s re-nomination on the ground that he had not done enough for Karnataka from where he secured three Rajya Sabha terms, and that he did not even learn