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Like ‘students’, Bengal BJP MLAs vote in Presidential poll

Cross-vote fear shows in queue

Arkamoy Datta Majumdar Calcutta Published 19.07.22, 01:17 AM
BJP MLAs, sporting traditional tribal robe panchi, queue up at the Assembly on Monday to cast votes  in the presidential poll.

BJP MLAs, sporting traditional tribal robe panchi, queue up at the Assembly on Monday to cast votes in the presidential poll. Bishwarup Dutta

The Bengal BJP did everything possible to show a united face of the party on the day of the presidential poll as all its MLAs turned up at the Assembly together and stood as a group in the queue before casting their votes.

However, the show of unity, insiders in the BJP said, betrayed the jitters of cross-voting in the saffron camp.


The BJP lawmakers came in a bus from the New Town hotel — where they had spent the Sunday night — to the Assembly well ahead of 10am, when the poll process began. They stood in the queue as a group under the watchful eyes of Manoj Tigga, Sudip Mukherjee and Swapan Majumdar, who were the authorised representatives of NDA candidate Droupadi Murmu.

“It is like we are school students…. Strict regimentation was the key today. It was clear that our leaders were desperate to ensure that none of our votes got cancelled and nobody indulged in cross-voting,” a BJP MLA said after the poll.

Once all the BJP MLAs cast their votes, the three “students-in-charge” stood in the queue to cast their votes, another BJP MLA said. “It’s like after the students are done with their lunch, the teachers-in-charge will have their meals,” he said.

The BJP camp’s approach — unprecedented in the history of elections in Bengal — prompted Trinamul Congress national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee to take a dig at the party.

“The BJP is not able to trust their own MLAs. It is holding them captive and putting them in some five-star rooms. If you’re not able to trust your own MLAs, your own people, how do you think the people of Bengal will trust you?” Banerjee asked while speaking to journalists after casting his vote.

“They have brought resort politics to Bengal.… So far, the BJP had been orchestrating defections and putting up MLAs of other parties in resorts. They are now paying the price of the politics they are doing elsewhere and hence doing everything possible to ensure that their own MLAs don’t desert them,” Banerjee added.Reacting to Trinamul’s allegations, leader of the Opposition Suvendu Adhikari said: “What is the problem if all of us have stayed together? Many of us have not been granted accommodation at the MLA hostel. They come from faraway places. I’m the leader of the Opposition. I don’t have accommodation in the MLA hostel.”

Pawan Singh — Bhatpara’s BJP MLA — was the first from the party to cast his vote, followed by Balurghat’s MLA Ashok Lahiri.

Pawan is the son of MP Arjun Singh, who had won on a BJP ticket but had recently gone back to his former party, Trinamul. There was an air of suspense over whether Pawan cast his vote for the NDA nominee.

“He was not present in the training programmes or mock polls conducted by the BJP in the last couple of days. There is little doubt that he didn’t vote for our candidate... I think that some others also did the same thing,” said a source in the BJP.

Adhikari, however, put up a brave face and said that Pawan was a BJP MLA and he was confident that all 70 saffron MLAs — down from 77 that the party had won in 2021 — voted for Murmu.

“Pawan is with us. He came to my office and had coffee before leaving,” Adhikari said.

Multiple BJP sources said the state leaders were also worried about the possibility of some votes getting cancelled on technical grounds and that was why the central leadership had asked the state unit to train the MLAs properly.

Following the directive from Delhi, Adhikari took a theoretical class of the MLAs on Saturday to teach them how to cast their votes. A mock poll was organised on Sunday to give the lawmakers a firsthand experience.

“Everything was alright, but the problem arose when three of the votes got cancelled in the mock poll. The three MLAs were asked to be careful to not repeat their mistakes during the original poll,” a MLA said.

“If it is found out on July 21 that any of us had made similar mistakes while casting their votes, it would be such an embarrassment,” he added.

The votes will be counted on July 21.

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