7 BJP MLAs cross-vote for NC, Cong in MLCs election13 April 2011
The Daily Excelsior
JAMMU: In a major setback to the BJP, seven MLAs of the party today allegedly cross-voted in favour of ruling National Conference and Congress candidates for two seats of Jammu leading to victory of both coalition candidates comfortably and defeat of PDP candidate Bharat Bushan Gupta, backed by the Nationalist Panthers Party (NPP) in the election held for six seats of the Legislative Council. BJP candidate Thakur Ranjit Singh polled just four votes against the seat of Jammu region as against 11 MLAs of the party clearly indicating that seven legislators of the party cast their voted to NC-Congress candidates, Choudhary Noor Hussain and Yashpaul Khajuria as vote bank of PDP candidate Bharat Bushan Gupta was intact at 24 (21 from PDP and three from NPP) though one of his vote was declared invalid. One BJP MLA also didn't vote for party's candidate on Kashmir seat as BJP nominee Mohammad Maqbool War secured only 10 votes, one of which was rejected, reducing his votes to just 9. The BJP leadership at both Centre and State level took serious note of the development and vowed to take action against the MLAs, who voted for the ruling party, after identifying them. BJP chief whip Ashok Khajuria, who had issued the whip to all 11 party MLAs to vote for the party candidates against Jammu, Kashmir and Poonch seats, admitted that his whip has been violated with impunity. He said he was writing to the party high command to take action against the MLAs. There was a strong resentment among the people of Jammu, especially the people who had voted for the BJP in the aftermath of successful Amarnath land agitation which gave the party the highest ever seats in the Assembly, who alleged that some of the party MLAs have 'sold the interests of Jammu region' and that their slogans of discrimination with Jammu region were nothing but 'hollow' as they were 'hand-in-glove' with ruling National Conference and Congress (I) for 'monetary considerations' or for other 'vested interests'. Excelsior received a number of telephone calls from all corners of Jammu seeking immediate identification of the BJP MLAs, who have played with sentiments of the people and their recall as MLAs. The BJP had won highest number of 11 seats in November-December 2008 elections riding on the sentiments and wave of Amarnath land agitation of two months besides the issue of discrimination with Jammu region. 'What these seven MLAs of the BJP have done is much worse than the discrimination. They have openly sold the interests of not only their national party but the people of Jammu region, who made them victorious', the callers said, regretting that the BJP MLAs action came at a time when the entire country had united in Anna Hazare's fight against corruption. The BJP's cross-voting also came when a high level BJP study group led by former national president, Rajnath Singh and comprising Ravi Shankar Prasad and Shahnawaz Hussain, both former Union Ministers were in Srinagar after two days visit of Jammu. The people in one voice called for stern action against the BJP MLAs saying they deserved to be punished severely as they had hoodwinked the people by winning election on the plank of discrimination with Jammu region and Amarnath land row contesting against NC and Congress candidates but voting for the same two parties in the Legislative Council elections allegedly due to 'monetary considerations' and other 'vested interests'. The people called upon the BJP high command to take stern action against the erring MLAs, otherwise, the party's stand on discrimination and separatists would be rendered completely irrelevant. Of six seats of the Legislative Council for which the voting was held today, five were captured by the coalition (three by NC and two by Congress) while one seat went to the PDP. The BJP deputy leader in the party, Jugal Kishore is said to have offered his resignation on moral grounds. The victorious candidates included Dr Bashir Ahmed Vir and Sardar Dharamvir Singh Oberoi (both NC) and Mohammad Ashraf Mir (PDP) from three seats of Kashmir, Choudhary Noor Hussain (NC) and Yashpaul Khajuria (Congress), both from Jammu seats and Jehangir Mir (Congress) from Poonch reserve seat. Secretary Legislative Assembly and Returning Officer for the elections, Mohammad Ramzan told the Excelsior that out of 89 electoral college (87 elected MLAs plus two nominated women MLAs), 87 cast their votes for three seats of Kashmir while for two seats of Jammu and one seat reserved for Poonch, 88 votes were polled. Mr Ramzan said Independent MLA from Langate Engineer Sheikh Abdul Rashid abstained from elections while another Independent MLA from Bishnah, Ashwani Sharma didn't cast his vote on Kashmir seat but voted for Jammu and Poonch seats. Out of 87 votes polls for three seats of Kashmir, Dr Bashir Ahmed Veeri and Sardar Dharamvir Singh Oberoi, the two NC candidates polled 26 votes each while PDP nominee Mohammad Ashraf Mir got 25 votes, one more than the combined strength of PDP and NPP. BJP candidate Mohammad Maqbool War got only 10 votes, one less than the BJP's strength of 11 in the Legislative Assembly. War's one vote was declared invalid, which reduced his votes to 9. Mr Ramzan said all three candidates were elected in the first round as under the Rules, a candidate having secured 23 or above votes would have made it to the Upper House when the election was being held for three seats. For two seats of Jammu, NC candidate Choudhary Noor Hussain and Congress nominee Yashpaul Khajuria, a former Minister, polled 30 votes each and were declared as winners. PDP candidate Bharat Bushan Khajuria got 24 votes (21 from PDP and three from NPP). However, one of his votes was held invalid, reducing number of his votes to 23. BJP candidate Thakur Ranjit Singh for just four votes as against party's strength of 11. For a clear first round victory on two seats of Jammu, the two candidates required 30 votes each, which the NC and Congress nominees got with the alleged help of seven votes of the BJP as the Alliance had 52 votes including 29 of NC, 18 of Congress and five Others which comprised Agriculture Minister Ghulam Hassan Mir (DPN), MY Tarigami (CPM), Hakim Mohammad Yasin (PDF), Charanjit Singh and Tsetan Namgayal (both Independents). Another Independent Ashwani Sharma voted for Congress candidate Yashpaul Khajuria on the ground that the Congress candidate was his relative. However, Mr Sharma said he voted for the BJP candidate on Poonch seat and abstained on Kashmir seat. On lone seat reserved for Poonch, Congress candidate Jehangir Mir got 52 votes while BJP's Satish Sasan polled 12 votes, one of which was rejected, reducing his votes to 11. NPP's Mohammad Saleem got 24 votes (equal to the strength of PDP and NPP combine). Mr Sasan got one additional vote of Ashwani Sharma taking his vote bank to 12 but at the same time his one vote was rejected. On lone seat of Poonch, a candidate required 45 votes for clear cut victory while Jehangir Mir polled seven votes more than the requisite number. Mr Ramzan said no party had surplus votes to cast second preference. Therefore, no second preference vote was polled by any of the party. Sources said the voting pattern on the seats of Kashmir and Poonch clearly revealed that NC-Congress Alliance had 52 votes-29 of NC, 18 of Congress and five Independents and Others. On three seats of Kashmir, two NC candidates (Veeri and Oberoi) polled 26 votes each totaling 52. Similarly, the coalition candidate Jehangir Mir also polled 52 votes on lone seat of Poonch. However, it was on the two seats of Jammu that the Alliance candidates (Noor Hussain and Yashpaul Khajuria) polled 60 votes (30 each), eight more than the coalition strength. While Independent Ashwani Sharma admitted having voted for Congress nominee Yashpaul Khajuria, seven excess votes for NC and Congress candidates allegedly came from the BJP. This was also evident from the fact that the BJP candidate Thakur Ranjit Singh polled only four votes, seven less than the BJP's strength of 11 in the Assembly. Sources said four BJP candidates were alleged to have voted for NC candidate and three for the Congress. With Ashwani Sharma also voting for the Congress, the vote bank of NC and Congress candidates went up to 30 each in Jammu as against 26 each in Kashmir, leading to clear cut victory of the coalition candidates. According to sources, the Intelligence agencies were anticipating cross-voting for PDP candidate Bharat Bushan Gupta, a transporter. However, what happened, was reverse as the cross-voting did take place but against Gupta, who lost the election despite getting the combined support of PDP and NPP. Even on three seats of Kashmir, BJP candidate Mohammad Maqbool War polled only 10 votes, one of which was rejected, indicating that here also one BJP MLA had cross-voted either for the two NC candidates or for the PDP. On Kashmir seat, PDP nominee Mohammad Ashraf Mir polled 25 votes, one more than the combined strength of PDP and NPP which together accounted for 24 votes (PDP 21 and NPP 3). On lone seat for Poonch where BJP candidate Satish Sasan's defeat was certain, all BJP MLAs were reported to have voted for him as he secured 12 votes (11 from BJP and one from Independent Ashwani Sharma). One of his vote was rejected. This is not for the first time that cross-voting has rocked the State. About two years back, a BJP MLA had voted for National Conference patron Dr Farooq Abdullah in the Rajya Sabha elections. Though the party identified the MLA, the matter was hushed up as the State leadership shifted blame on a Central leader saying he had asked for casting one vote in favour of Mr Abdullah. In 2005 Council elections, NC candidate Tarlochan Singh Wazir had engineered massive cross-voting from Congress and won the seat at the cost of official Congress candidate Shivdev Singh. The national BJP leadership reacted angrily to the large scale cross-voting from the BJP while the State leadership, which was at the center-stage of controversy, wondered what happened to their MLAs. The party leadership was working on different theories including alleged 'monetary considerations' that might have lured their MLAs to cross-voting. BJP national general secretary OP Kohli was rushed to Jammu tonight by the party high command. Mr Kohli told the Excelsior that he was reaching here tomorrow morning to assess the situation. He said the party high command has viewed very seriously the cross-voting by seven BJP MLAs. Another national BJP leader R P Singh, who is accompanying Mr Kohli, hinted at strict action against the erring party MLAs saying they wouldn't be spared. BJP general secretary, Incharge J&K, Jagat Prakash Nadda, who is also reaching here tomorrow afternoon, said it was a 'very serious matter' that the MLAs of the BJP have allegedly cross-voted for the NC and Congress candidates. ' Every thing would be investigated. The erring MLAs would be singled out and action taken against them', Mr Nadda said. BJP Legislature Party leader Prof Chaman Lal Gupta, who has summoned all MLAs at 5 pm tomorrow, said an inquiry was on to identify the MLAs, who indulged in cross-voting. 'We are trying to ascertain what went wrong', he said. To a question as to how the erring MLAs could be identified due to secret voting for the Legislative Council elections, Prof Gupta quipped 'everything is possible'. In response to a question, the Secretary Assembly-cum-Returning Officer said it was not possible to point out as to which MLA had voted for a particular candidate. 'It's a secret ballot and we will send entire record to the Election Commission of India', he said. BJP chief whip Ashok Khajuria, who had issued a whip to all 11 MLAs of the party to vote for the party candidates, admitted that his whip was violated with impunity. 'My MLAs made a mockery of my whip. It was openly flouted. This act is nothing but a clear breach of discipline and intolerable. This type of anti-party activity is not acceptable. The MLAs would be identified and action taken against them', Mr Khajuria said. He claimed that he showed his vote to party candidate Ranjit Singh's son though it was prohibited under the law. Mr Khajuria declined to comment on whether the MLAs cross-voted due to 'monetary considerations' or 'under influence of the Government'. He said it was for the party high command to decide whether to invoke the provisions of anti-defection law on the MLAs if they were identified. Mr Khajuria said he was drafting a detailed document to be presented to the BJP high command on violation of his whip. He spoke to former Union Minister and BJP leader Arun Jaitley on phone tonight and apprised him of the situation. BJP State president Shamsher Singh Manhas has also called for strict disciplinary action against the erring MLAs. According to sources, seven MLAs crossed the barrier of two-third strength in 11 members BJP group and the provisions of anti-defection law might not apply to them. Cross-voting by seven MLAs could be a part of the strategy to keep their strength above two-third mark, they said. Sources said it was not only the cross-voting but there also appeared to be some mystery behind one invalid vote polled for all three elections. One vote of BJP MLA was declared invalid both for Kashmir and Poonch candidates-Mohammad Maqbool War and Satish Sasan. However, all 11 BJP votes (four polled to official candidate Ranjit Singh) and seven to NC and Congress candidates in Jammu were held valid. PDP candidate Bharat Bushan Gupta, who was a front runner on Jammu seat, also polled one invalid vote reducing his votes to 23. However, the PDP candidate in Kashmir Mohammad Ashraf Mir didn't get any invalid vote and rather polled 25 votes, one more than the expected. Of six MLCs elected today, only Congress candidate Jehangir Mir made it to the Upper House for the second time while five others were first time entrants to the Council. Mir had represented Poonch Assembly seat in a by-election held after the death of NC MLA Ghulam Mohammad Jan. Five MLCs, who were denied mandate by NC and Congress included, Abdul Gani Vakil, a former Minister from Congress elected from Kashmir seat, Tarlochan Singh Wazir of NC, elected from Jammu seat, M R Qureshi of NC from Poonch reserve, Showkat Ganaie and Altaf Wani (both NC) from Kashmir seats. Term of six MLCs is expiring on April 19. The new MLCs would be administered oath before expiry of the term. Present strength of the Legislative Council would remain static at 31 with the election. With today's election, the PDP's strength in the Upper House has gone up from three to four while NC-Congress coalition strength has come down from 27 to 26. NPP has one MLC. Out of five vacancies, four MLCs are to be elected by Panchayats (two each from Jammu and Kashmir regions) and one from Urban Local Bodies, the seat vacated by Nizam-ud-Din Bhat of PDP after his election as the MLA. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and PCC (I) chief Prof Saif-ud-Din Soz have congratulated the newly elected MLCs. Meanwhile, BJP candidate on Jammu seat, Thakur Ranjit Singh, who polled just four votes, said he was loyal worker of the party. He said the party high command would take action against the party MLAs, who had flouted the whip to vote for him. 'Obviously, I condemn the action of party MLAs, who had won the election against NC and Congress but voted in favour of the candidates of these two parties in today's election to the Legislative Council', Ranjit Singh, who is State working committee member and former State unit vice president of the BJP, said.