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Left jolted by rebel vote blow

Calcutta, March 28: Cross-voting by six MLAs elected on Left Front tickets almost defeated Forward Bloc's Barun Mukherjee in the Rajya Sabha elections today.

Four second-preference votes helped him scrape past the post.

At the end of the day, all Left candidates ' the CPM's Mainul Hasan, Tapan Sen and Saman Pathak and the Bloc's Mukherjee ' got elected to the upper House.

But the cross-voting got Trinamul Congress's Mukul Roy three additional votes, making his tally of 56 the highest among the six candidates.

An elated Mamata Banerjee said: 'We have won both politically and morally' three Left MLAs voted for us.'

The Congress's Subrata Mukherjee was an also-ran with 33 votes, 15 short of the required number. However, he did manage to get votes of four rebel Trinamul and two rebel Bloc MLAs, other than those of the 27 Congress members.

Two Congress votes were rejected on technical grounds.

Government chief whip Rabin Deb described the cross-voting as 'shameful'. He said: 'It is unfortunate that some MLAs committed this disgra-ceful act for petty gains. This is a very bad sign for parliamentary democracy.'

Those who cross-voted today have little love lost for the party on whose ticket they had won the last Assembly polls.

Sushil Biswas, who had won on a CPM ticket and voted for Trinamul today, has already been expelled from the party. The Bloc's Chhayya Ghosh, a former Left Front minister, has floated her own outfit, the Forward Bloc (Janabadi).

Mohammed Yakub, also a Bloc MLA, has made clear his intention of joining Ghosh. Both Ghosh and Yakub voted for Subrata Mukherjee.

Sunirmal Paik and Mujibar Rahman of the West Bengal Socialist Party ' have been denied tickets this time for turning rebellious. They voted for Trinamul's Roy.

Former Bloc minister Kalimuddin Shams had initially voted for Mukherjee, but later cancelled it.

Sources said the three GNLF members voted for the Left and the government chief whip asserted that their votes went to 'one party', meaning the CPM.

Although the House should have 294 MLAs, several vacancies were created following deaths and resignations. While the Left Front's Dhiren Sen, Ganesh Mondal and Purnendu Sengupta passed away, Bansagopal Chowdhury put in his papers. Trinamul's Arunava Ghosh and Mukherjee had also resigned. The Assembly's present strength is 288.

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