In a major jolt to the BJP, which is in talks with the PDP to form government in Jammu and Kashmir, National Conference-Congress joint candidate Ghulam Nabi Azad got re-elected to the Rajya Sabha on Saturday, defeating party candidate Chander Mohan Sharma by a margin of two votes.
The other three who entered the Rajya Sabha from the state were PDP’s Mir Mohammad Fayaz and Nazir Ahmed Laway and BJP’s Shamsher Singh Manhas.
The tenure of Azad, who is the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, was to end in mid-February. It was just one vote — that of Independent member Engineer Rasheed — that tilted the balance in his favour. Two other members — Independent Hakeem Yaseen and CPM’s M Y Tarigami — had already announced support for Azad, describing the BJP-PDP combine as an “unholy alliance”.
Before casting his vote, Rasheed circulated a written statement, claiming that it was given by five Congress MLAs who accepted that it was a mistake by the then UPA government not to allow relatives have a last meeting with Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru before he was hanged in Tihar jail in 2013. According to the statement, they also justified Rasheed’s demand for return of Afzal’s mortal remains to his family in the Valley as “humanitarian”.
Rasheed said although the statement will not bring back Afzal, it vindicates his stand in the matter as the same people had then accused him of being anti-national. He said he had talks with the PDP and the BJP too but opted to vote for the NC-Congress candidate as he was choosing the lesser evil. He said he also wanted to stall BJP’s “communal agenda”.
Azad described his re-election as a victory of secular forces and the same thing will happen in the Delhi elections. “It is immaterial that how many seats we win, but the downfall of Modi government has begun. What has happened here will percolate to other places as well,” he said.
To stall Azad’s election, the BJP raised objection over the votes polled by NC’s Devender Singh Rana and Javed Rana, saying they had not resigned from legislative council. However, the objection was rejected by the election commission.
PDP’s Mir Mohammad Fayaz and BJP’s Shamsher Singh Manhas got elected on first two vacancies, which went to polls separately as both parties on their own had 55 votes each against the requirement of 44 votes.
The setback to the BJP came during the third election in which all the 87 newly-elected MLAs had only one vote for two vacancies which went to polls together. Three candidates in the fray were Azad, PDP’s Nazir Ahmed Laway and BJP’s Chander Mohan Sharma.
In the 87-member House, the PDP has 28 members, followed by the BJP (25), the NC (15), the Congress (12) and others (7). The PDP-BJP combine apart from its 53 votes also had the support of two People’s Conference legislators and two Independents raising their tally to 57.
In the third election wherein members had to vote for one of the three candidates, one needed 30 votes to win. Of the 57 votes, Laway polled 29 leaving 28 for Chander Mohan. At the last minute, Congress managed to win over Rasheed, making for sure Azad’s re-entry to the Rajya Sabha.