Calcutta, Feb. 7: The Trinamul Congress today injected unpredictability and intrigue to the ritual-like habit of winning elections by snatching votes from the Left and the Congress to win all the four seats it contested in the Rajya Sabha polls.
Actor Mithun Chakraborty, artist Jogen Chowdhury, industrialist K.D. Singh and journalist Ahmed Hassan were declared elected today. The lone winner from the Opposition camp was SFI leader Ritabrata Banerjee.
Independent candidate and sitting Rajya Sabha MP Ahmad Saeed Malihabadi, who was supported by the Congress as well as the Left, was defeated.
Trinamul’s cutting edge was provided by six MLAs from the Opposition — three each from the Left Front and the Congress. Among the three MLAs from the Congress, one was already with Trinamul but not officially. (See chart below)
After Trinamul’s two assured votes were disqualified, the four candidates of the party should have collected 189 votes. But they secured 195, thanks to the six cross-votes. Without the cross-votes, the fourth Trinamul candidate would have been in trouble.
Not that cross-voting had not taken place earlier in Bengal but some Left leaders referred to a “qualitative difference” back then, saying political reasons, not money power, prompted voting across the aisle.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee today cited the same logic to defend the cross-voting from the Opposition and hammer home the “nexus” between the Left and the Congress.
“Those who voted for Trinamul from the other side did so because they didn’t like this nexus between the Congress and the CPM. Bengal is a politically mature state. Those who voted for Trinamul candidates did so on ideological grounds,” Mamata said.
Asked about the allegations of MLAs from Opposition parties being lured to the ruling camp, she said: “Banglay e sab hoy na (These things do not happen in Bengal).
She added: “Trinamul is the only transparent party. Those who are making such allegations are wrong. We have a political ideology and we stick to it. Those who voted for us had declared that they will vote in our favour.”
A day before the polling, uncertainty had shrouded the votes at least five MLAs — Dasrath Tirkey and Ananta Deb Adhikari (both from the RSP), Forward Bloc’s Sunil Mondal and Congress’s Abu Naser Khan Choudhury and Sushil Roy.
However, Abu Naser, the brother of the late Ghani Khan Choudhury who had made Malda a Congress bastion, voted for the candidate supported by his party.
Abu Naser’s party colleague from Murshidabad, Emani Biswas, went against the party line and voted for Trinamul. Soumitra Khan, who had joined Trinamul but still retains his seat as a Congress MLA, also cast his vote for a Trinamul nominee.
The sole straw for the Congress was that Trinamul rebel MLA Shikha Mitra gave her vote to Malihabadi, the Independent candidate backed by the Congress and the Left.
It was more or less clear yesterday itself that the three Left MLAs would vote for Trinamul.
The morning showed the day. As soon as polling started, Trinamul MLAs rushed to cast their votes while the Opposition camp went in small groups. The rebel MLAs from the Left were among the first to enter the Assembly.
Leader of Opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra remained inside his chamber and went to vote after Mamata had cast her ballot. “Surjyada wanted to ensure that the other Left MLAs cast their votes as had been decided,” said a CPM legislator.
Rivals saw in the Trinamul’s aggressive Rajya Sabha run the next phase of its raid on the Opposition camps. “This trend is being seen at all levels, be it municipalities, panchayats or even college unions, the Trinamul Congress is trying to gain control by adopting any means available. That they would take the same measure for the Rajya Sabha polls too was unexpected,” said a CPM MLA.
The eagerness among the Trinamul leadership to see all the four candidates through to the Rajya Sabha is also being seen as an attempt to unsettle the Opposition before the Lok Sabha elections.
“A victory ahead of the Lok Sabha polls would act as a morale-booster. We had succeeded in winning over Congress MLAs, this time we have been able to deliver a blow to the Left Front as well by getting three of their MLAs to our side,” said a Trinamul insider.
After the change of guard in Bengal, this is the first instance of MLAs casting votes to elect Rajya Sabha MPs. Since May 2011, Trinamul has continued with its domination of popular elections.
However, a section of the party leaders is said to be unhappy with the aggressive stand. Some are wondering if the move will backfire later.
“The party should exercise caution about others switching sides. Those who are deserting their parties to join us will not think twice in case of trouble. Moreover, the influx is also increasing the number of disgruntled elements since everybody is eyeing posts or benefits,” said a Trinamul minister.