The Election Commission late on Friday countermanded the poll held for two Rajya Sabha seats from Jharkhand in view of incidents of “horse trading and use of money power to influence the voters (MLAs)”. The Commission wrote to President Pratibha Patil to rescind the March 12, 2012, notification for election issued by her.
"Having regard to the above Constitutional and legal position enjoining upon the Commission the duty of conducting free and fair elections and upholding the purity of election and after taking into account all relevant facts and circumstances of the present case, the Commission is satisfied that the current election process for Rajya Sabha election from Jharkhand has been seriously vitiated and cannot be permitted to proceed," the Commission said in a release.
The Commission also referred to complaints it received from Gurudas Das Gupta (Communist Party of India), Babulal Marandi (Bharatiya Janata Party) and Sharad Yadav (Janata Dal (United)) on the alleged corrupt activities to woo the MLAs and make them to do cross-voting using money power. It also referred to the seizure of Rs. 2.15 crore cash earlier in the day from the vehicle belonging to the brother of an independent contesting the poll, being taken to Ranchi to distribute among the MLAs for cross-voting.
The Commission, which had earlier in the day, asked the Returning Officers of the Jharkhand and Uttarakhand (for one seat) RS biennial election, not to declare the results of the poll without specific clearance of the Commission, however in the evening cleared counting in Uttarakhand. Congress nominee Mahendra Singh Mahra got 39 votes and Anil Goyal of the BJP bagged 31 votes in the 70-member Uttarakhand Assembly and the former was declared elected.
With this, 56 of the 58 Rajya Sabha seats from 14 States have been filled as the current members will be retiring on April 2-3, 2012. Now only the two seats from Jharkhand have to be filled. In 55 seats, the candidates have been declared elected unopposed.
BJP springs a surprise
Meanwhile, the BJP, after the flip-flop on backing the candidature of NRI businessman Anshuman Mishra for the Rajya Sabha seat from Jharkhand, sprang a surprise by directing its legislators to vote in favour of the JMM candidate.
The decision, announced mid-way through the election, appears to have caught some top leaders of the party by surprise. Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj has been categorically saying that BJP legislators in the State would abstain from voting.
The strategy of the party leadership in Jharkhand ever since the process for the Rajya Sabha election began has been mired in controversy. The party was forced to distance itself from the candidature of Mr. Mishra after several leaders in the party raised objections in lending support to a person with suspicious credentials.
The NRI businessman proved to be a headache for the BJP once it became clear to him that the party has backed off from its decision to support his candidature. He levelled such serious allegations against several party leaders that BJP president Nitin Gadkari was compelled to issue a statement countering his charges and appealing to the media not to take cognisance of Mr. Mishra's statements.
The last-minute announcement by the party asking its legislators to support the JMM candidate has been explained by BJP leaders as a move to safeguard its alliance with the JMM.
First preference votes
According to a senior leader, as part of an understanding reached between the JMM and the BJP, MLAs from both the parties cast only their first preference votes.
“We asked the JMM leadership to ask its MLAs to cast their votes first and once we were convinced, our MLAs voted for JMM candidate.” The leader said that the BJP was worried at the prospect of some JMM MLAs may vote for one of the independent candidates in the fray.
BJP spokesman Prakash Javadekar said: “To end all possibilities of horse-trading and to strengthen democracy, our party MLAs in Jharkhand have voted for our ally JMM's candidate Sanjeev Kumar. The decision was taken by our Legislature Party in Jharkhand.”
In Jharkhand, there are five candidates — one each from the Congress, the JMM and the JVM (P) and two independents.
Each candidate has to secure a minimum of 27 votes for victory and interestingly none of the parties has the strength in the Assembly. While the ruling BJP-JMM alliance has 18 members each, the Congress has 13, the JVM 11, the AJSU and the RJD 5 each, the Janata Dal (U) 3, the MSS one and others six.