At least eight MLAs of the opposition Congress in BJP-ruled Gujarat appeared to have voted for the victorious NDA nominee Ram Nath Kovind in the presidential poll. Announcing the outcome of the election in Delhi, Returning Officer Anoop Mishra said Kovind received votes of 132 MLAs in Gujarat and the UPA nominee Meira Kumar 49. The main opposition Congress has 57 MLAs in the 182-member state Assembly. However, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani claimed 11 MLAs from the opposition party voted in Kovind’s favour in addition to the BJP’s 121.
In the 182-member House, the BJP has 121 MLAs, Congress 57, NCP two, JD(U) and the Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) one each. The lone JD(U) MLA, Chotu Vasava, had boycotted the July 17 vote. “If statements of the NCP and GPP MLA Nalin Kotadia are true, then either 11 MLAs cross-voted for the BJP candidate or eight of our members have cross-voted,” a senior Congress leader said. He was referring to the statement of the NCP state unit president Jayant Patel who today said that none of the party MLAs voted for Kovind. Kotadia, who had turned against the BJP government over the Patel quota issue, also said he had voted in favour of Kumar.
“The Congress has 57 MLAs in Gujarat. However, our candidate (Kumar) got 49 votes, which indicates that at least eight MLAs have cross voted,” a Congress insider said. Meanwhile, Rupani said, “We have 121 MLAs but our candidate (Kovind) received 132 votes. Eleven MLAs have voted in our favour from the opposition party. This speaks about the state of the affairs in the Congress party.” He said the BJP did not make any efforts to engineer cross voting. “Votes came to us on their own,” he added.
The cross-voting came as a significant blow to the Congress in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state where elections are due later this year. Meanwhile, the Congress’ Gujarat in-charge Ashok Gehlot went into a huddle with senior leaders here to identify the MLAs who voted against Meira Kumar. Cross-voting by Congress MLAs, poll watchers said, reflected the disunity in the party which may imperil the chances of senior Congress leader and party president Sonia Gandhi’s political advisor Ahmed Patel who is seeking another Rajya Sabha term from Gujarat election for which is scheduled for August 8.
Clarifying that NCP MLAs had voted for Kumar, Patel said,” I just had a talk with a senior Congress leader in Delhi and conveyed to him that the NCP is not involved in cross-voting. As decided ahead of the polls, both our votes went to the UPA candidate. I think the Congress needs to introspect about what went wrong”. The cross-voting came in the backdrop of the tussle between Leader of Opposition Shankarsinh Vaghela and state Congress president Bharatsinh Solanki over who would lead the party in the Assembly elections.