Congress wins in Rajasthan, count delay in two states
The Congress on Friday saw all its three Rajya Sabha candidates win in Rajasthan while its nominees appeared on course for victory also in Haryana and Maharashtra, where counting was delayed on BJP complaints.
The Congress’s impressive showing in Rajasthan came despite the handicap of all its candidates being outsiders and the BJP seeking to exploit local sentiments.
In Haryana, too, Ajay Maken was an outsider and a few MLAs were upset with his choice, but party sources said he would sail through. Media baron Kartikey Sharma, supported by the BJP, appeared unlikely to succeed in triggering cross-voting in the Congress, which had the 31 votes required for victory.
In Karnataka, the BJP won three of the four seats while the Congress bagged the fourth. The JD(S) drew a blank. Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, actor-politician Jaggesh and MLC Lehar Singh Siroya were the victorious BJP nominees while Jairam Ramesh won from the Congress.
Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot is being hailed for his “jadu” (magic) after Randeep Surjewala bagged 43 votes — two more than required — and all the Independents and allies stayed loyal despite enormous pressure.
The BJP-supported candidate — media baron Subhash Chandra — had claimed that several Congress MLAs were in touch with him but, in the end, a BJP MLA cross-voted for the Congress.
The counting in Haryana was delayed, the BJP having approached the chief election commissioner in Delhi after the returning officer for Haryana rejected its demand for cancellation of the votes of two Congress MLAs.
The BJP had alleged that Kiran Chaudhary and B.B. Batra had handed over their ballots to the authorised agent, argued this was illegal and demanded their votes be declared invalid.
But the returning officer ruled: “I have seen the videography very carefully and found that there is no breach of privacy/ secrecy of ballot papers. Hence the application is rejected.”
Counting hadn’t begun in Maharashtra till 9pm because of a BJP complaint of irregularity. The party alleged that three ruling coalition members, Jeetendra Awadh (NCP), Yashomati Thakur (Congress) and Sushas Kande (Shiv Sena) had shown their votes to party members instead of the polling agents.
A BJP delegation led by Union ministers Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Gajendra Singh Shekhawat petitioned the Election Commission, contesting the Haryana returning officer’s decision.
Congress candidate Maken responded quickly by writing to the commission that the BJP was trying to delay the counting, sensing a defeat. The Congress’s seriousness about the matter was reflected in the strength of the team it deployed to counter the BJP claim.
While Vivek Tankha, Pawan Bansal and Ranjeet Ranjan went to the commission to argue the party’s case, P. Chidambaram, Bhupesh Baghel, Randeep Surjewala and Rajeev Shukla joined the hearing through videoconferencing. They argued that there was no illegality and that the BJP was trying to vitiate the atmosphere because its attempts at poaching on votes had failed.
While contests were necessitated for 16 seats in Rajasthan, Haryana, Maharashtra and Karnataka, 41 candidates were elected unopposed.