Assam cross-vote MLAs face action
The Opposition Congress on Wednesday asserted “very strict” action against party MLAs from Assam for cross-voting in the recently-held presidential election.
AICC general secretary in-charge of Assam Jitendra Singh told reporters in Delhi: “We have been discussing the issue with senior state leaders. We will take very strict action against those who cross-voted. We have called PCC chief Bhupen Borah to Delhi for discussion on the issue, the action to be taken and how to identify the MLAs who have betrayed the people of Assam and their respective constituencies.”
The result of the presidential election saw ruling NDA candidate Droupadi Murmu win with a comfortable margin against Opposition candidate Yashwant Sinha but it also triggered another round of turmoil and embarrassment for the principal Opposition party in Assam because of the cross-voting issue.
Murmu, who was sworn in as the 15th President on Monday, secured 104 votes out of the 124 MLAs who voted, 22 more than the strength of the BJP-led ruling alliance.
Sinha bagged only 20 votes when the strength of the Opposition was 42. Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma later claimed about 15 to 16 of the 22 MLAs who cross-voted were from the Congress.
The Congress has 27 members (including three suspended MLAs) in the 126-member House, fuelling disquiet in the Congress rank because of cross-voting by at least six of its MLAs.
Jitendra Singh accused the Opposition AIUDF of being the B team of the ruling BJP and that their entire vote going to the ruling alliance candidate.
The AIUDF has 15 MLAs in the House but two of them were abroad on the day of voting. The AIUDF asserted it has not voted for Murmu.
Singh said: “We are investigating the matter (cross-voting). I will be going to Assam to further discuss the issue with party leaders, members and MLAs. We have been hurt and shocked over the development but we also have to think about the morale of our aam karyakarta. It is the booth-level worker who is my leader and I will keep his maan and samman (respect) before everything.”
Few party MLAs have emerged as suspects but it will not be appropriate to reveal their identity without being doubly sure, he said.
PCC chief Bhupen Kumar Borah said the AICC and the PCC are on the same page as far as taking action against those who cross-voted.
“He (Singh) has already discussed the issue with the leadership. The AICC has taken the allegation of party workers seriously and is on the same page with us (for taking action). They have also taken the responsibility of identifying and punishing those who cross-voted. By now it is clear that six of our MLAs crossvoted. Steps will be taken after the probe is over,” Borah said.
He had earlier requested state CLP leader Saikia to conduct an inquiry into the crossvoting issue but party insiders said Saikia would pitch for an inquiry by either the PCC or the AICC since “he is also part of the CLP which has come under the scanner for crossvoting”.
Congress insiders said the presidential poll once again exposed the rot that has set in the state unit since the BJP came to power at the Centre in 2014. “In the Rajya Sabha election in March we lost despite the Opposition having the numbers to win the second seat. This time too Opposition MLAs voted for the ruling alliance candidate,” a Congress insider said.
Insiders said cross-voting has further demoralised the rank and file, adding there was a need to launch a crackdown against those letting the party down and grooming new candidates for the 2026 Assembly elections.
“Losing an election is one thing but it is something different when an elected MLA or an MP defects or indulges in cross-voting. This needs to be fixed at the earliest or we will be finished in the 2016 Assembly polls. The AICC needs to be proactive and take all-round views before taking any decision,” an insider said.