|Hemant Soren hugs fellow deputy CM and Ajsu chief Sudesh Mahto as JMM’s winning candidate Sanjeev Kumar looks on in Ranchi and RJD MLAs (above) flash the victory sign after casting their votes in the Assembly on Thursday. Picture by Prashant Mitra
Ranchi, May 3: The buzz in the Vidhan Sabha premises today over the rerun was much the same as the Rajya Sabha election on March 30. Only, the murmurs about horse-trading were replaced by a three-horse race that kept allies and rivals on their toes all day.
Once the voting for the re-election began at 9 o’ clock, the three political camps (BJP, JMM and the Congress) whose candidates were in the fray kept guessing on whether each would poll the winning number.
However, the last hurrahs were heard in the JMM and Congress camps, with BJP nominee S.S. Ahluwalia, who lost eventually, leaving the Assembly campus at 3.30pm without any hopes of a win.
Few legislators turned up to vote in the morning.
A defining moment came soon after 12pm as the two deputy chief ministers — Hemant Soren and Sudesh Mahto — arrived holding their hands together, signalling a JMM-Ajsu unity that would cost BJP a chance of winning one of the two seats.
“Ajsu has decided to vote for the JMM nominee, Sanjeev Kumar. We are both regional parties. So we decided to ensure the victory of the JMM candidate,” Ajsu president Mahto said.
The decision of Ajsu, which had been repeatedly approached by the JMM seeking support for its candidate, was not unexpected. But it made the BJP camp rethink the fate of its candidate.
Soon after the Ajsu legislators cast their votes, chief minister Arjun Munda emerged outside the Assembly. But as a bunch of press photographers made a rush, sensing a photo-op, Munda hurried back to Assembly building.
All the 18 legislators of the JMM cast their votes by 11am. The party claimed that none of its MLAs had opted for second preference votes.
Legislators of other parties continued to trickle in, as just over 50 votes were cast until 1.30pm. Those who voted till then included eight of the BJP’s 18 MLAs. The rest of the BJP leaders voted only towards the fag end of the poll timings, which closed at 4pm.
RJD legislature party leader Annapurna Devi declared that all five of their legislators had voted for the Congress candidate, Pradeep Balmuchu, adding that they had not cast second preference votes either.
She even appealed to the JVM legislators to vote. The JVM, sticking to its stand, did not oblige, although it did not have a negative effect on its ally, Congress. Balmuchu won for Congress with support from the RJD and Independent MLAs.
Plain-clothes sleuths of the Intelligence Bureau, special branch of the state police and the CBI kept a close watch on the movements of legislators in and around the Assembly premises.
However, there was no drama within or outside the Assembly premises.
Jharkhand hogged the limelight during the March 30 election to the Upper House, which was countermanded by the Election Commission after CBI sleuths recovered bundles of cash worth Rs 2.15 crore from the car owned by the brother of Independent nominee R.K. Agrawal on the outskirts of Ranchi.
Agrawal, a Jamshedpur-based industrialist, and Pawan Dhoot, also a trader, were two of the Independent candidates in the March 30 election. The re-election today was marked by the absence of Independent nominees.
As the voting process drew to a close and the chances of a BJP loss brightened, thanks to Independent legislators swinging away, the party leaders tried to stay calm amid the sense of gloom.
“Now, there is no threat to the Munda government. If the JMM went on to lose, things could have proven worse for Munda in this politically fragile state,” a party leader was heard telling his colleagues, referring to the recent caveat from JMM on withdrawing from the ruling coalition if the BJP did not support it in the biennial.