Voting for the 11 Rajya Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh took place amidst high drama on Saturday, as Congress, which was heavily banking on additional votes from Bahujan Samaj Party for its Rajya Sabha candidate Kapil Sibal, got a setback when at least of its three MLAs reportedly voted for independent candidate Preeti Mahapatra, who is supported by Bharatiya Janta Party and another three gave their first preference votes to Bahujan Samaj Party instead.
As election to the 11 Rajya Sabha seats took place close to the upcoming Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, some of the MLAs openly indulged into cross-voting to convey their differences with their parties and their alignment towards other parties.
BJP MLA Gorakhpur Vijay Bahadur Yadav, who voted for Samajwadi Party said, “I have voted for the party, which can bring development to this State and my region. I voted for SP watching the development undertaken by Chief Minister and for betterment of my state and my region,” said Yadav.
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Whereas, two SP MLAs Bhagawan Sharma and Mukesh Sharma created ruckus as they came with BJP MLAs and alleged that SP MLAs misbehaved with them.
Mohd Muslim, Congress MLA from Tiloi, which is part Amethi Parliamentary constituency of Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, was among those who gave their first preference votes to BSP. Muslim gave his first preference vote to BSP and second preference to Congress. Mohd Muslim has been facing resentment from the party leaders. Sources inform that apart from Muslim, two other Congress MLAs also gave their first preference votes to BSP.
Asked about the reason for voting for BSP in first preference, Muslim told the Indian Express, “I have all the respect for the family but the party is deteriorating, its workers like me are being neglected. I come from Rae Bareli but still I find it difficult to convey my feelings. I have voted today listening to my heart but that does not mean that I have decided to leave the party yet.”
However, Congress MLAs, who voted for BJP supported independent candidate from Gujarat, Preeti Mahapatra, were rather more vocal.
Congress MLA from Basti, Sanjay Pratap Jaiswal, who along with another Congress MLAs Vijay Dubey was seen sitting with BJP MLAs today, told The Indian Express, “My own party was doubting me. Yesterday, during Legislative Council election, they alloted me second preference votes. So today, we decided to put their speculations to rest by voting for Preeti Mahapatra instead.”
He claimed that two other Congress MLAs Vijay Bahadur and Madhuri Verma also voted in favour of Mahapartra but added that their reasons were best known to them.
While SP Chief Mulayam Singh Yadav personally visited Vidhan Sabha during voting hours, senior Congress leaders Gulam Nabi Azad, Madhusudan Mistry, State President Nirmal Khatri were also present.
Amidst all this, voting was also disrupted for few minutes as Samajwadi Party MLAs Bhagawan Sharma (Guddu Pandit) and his brother Mukesh Sharma alleged that Samajwadi Party MLA Pawan Pandey threatened and misbehaved with them while voting. Pandit alleged that some of the SP MLAs also tried to snatch his ballot paper and said that he would file a complaint with the election commission.
Both the SP MLAs had come to vote along with BJP MLA Sangeet Som. “SP MLA Pawan Pandey misbehaved with me and did not allow me to vote. I was able to vote only after the intervention of the officials. I would file a complain with the election commission,” said Pandit. Whereas, Som also alleged, “SP MLAs are creating hurdles before BJP MLAs while casting their votes”
Two BJP MLAs Krishana Paswan and Vimla Botham also alleged that SP MLAs created obstructions.
Not only this, SP MLA Hazi Zamerullah Khan and BJP MLA Raghunandan Singh Bhadauriya entered into a verbal spat after voting, making allegations and counter allegations at each other’s parties for indulging in cross-voting.
After voting ended, Amar Singh, who is also one of the candidates of Samajwadi Party, when asked about allegations between BJP and SP MLAs, said: “BJP Kare to raasleela, baki koi kare toh unka Character dheela“.
Replying to the allegations leveled by BJP, SP Minister Azam Khan said, “Unse bara gunda aur kaun hai (who is a bigger goon than them). They can show whatever they want from someone’s fridge into a report.”
Khan added that all those who wanted to vote for other parties should have resigned first.
Despite defectors, Congress leaders seemed confident. AICC General Secretary Madhusudan Mistry said that “all is well that ends well”.