Rajya Sabha polls: BJP upsets Congress, Sena in Haryana and Maharashtra

Victories in Maharashtra and Haryana capped the BJP’s successful run in elections for 16 Rajya Sabha seats in four states with party candidates winning eight seats and an independent it backed taking the ninth.

The Shiv Sena, which heads the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi coalition in Maharashtra, was red faced when the BJP’s third candidate also won, defeating the Sena candidate.

In Haryana, the BJP candidate won while the second seat went to the BJP-JJP backed independent candidate Kartikeya Sharma who defeated Ajay Maken of the Congress due to cross-voting by Kuldeep Bishnoi, a special invitee to the CWC, and the rejection of a “wrongly cast” vote of one of its MLAs.

Stunned by what had transpired, the AICC announced the expulsion of Bishnoi from “all his present party positions” with immediate effect.

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Bishnoi said he “listened” to his “soul” while voting. The Congress, he said, “has rules for some leaders and exceptions for others. Rules are applied selectively. Indiscipline has been repeatedly ignored in the past. In my case, I listened to my soul and acted on my morals.”

In Maharashtra, a day after its three candidates won in Karnataka and another in Rajasthan, the BJP upset the Shiv Sena – the icing on the cake after the wins of Union minister Piyush Goyal and former state minister Anil Bonde was the victory of its candidate Dhananjay Mahadik, a former MP, who defeated Sanjay Pawar of Shiv Sena.

Mahadik won despite his party lacking numbers. In fact, Sanjay Raut, Shiv Sena’s official first candidate, received fewer votes than the BJP’s third candidate.

Goyal and Bonde got 48 votes each. The BJP strength in the Maharashtra Assembly is 105 but it managed to surprise everyone, pulling more votes than it had expected.

Other than Goyal, Bonde and Mahadik, those elected from Maharashtra are Raut, NCP’s Praful Patel and Congress’s Imran Pratapgarhi.

Opposition leader Devendra Fadnavis, said to be the man behind the BJP’s strategy to field three candidates, said, “The surplus votes which BJP candidates received has exposed the Maha Vikas Aghadi government’s claim that it had the support of 170 members in the state Assembly. Somewhere, it also shows that smaller parties/independents are not happy with MVA.”

He said the outcome would not have been different even if Nawab Malik and Anil Deshmukh had been allowed to vote or if Suhas Kande’s vote had been declared valid.

NCP chief Sharad Pawar told reporters, “I am not shocked to see the results. If you see the votes polled by every candidate of NCP, Shiv Sena and Congress, they received the votes as per the quota. Only Praful Patel (of NCP) received one extra vote and I know where it came from. That was not MVA’s vote, it was from the opposite side.”

He said the MVA had to bridge a big number gap for the sixth seat in which the Shiv Sena candidate was in the fray. The MVA, he said, showed courage and put in efforts but the BJP had more independent MLAs on its side.

Pawar’s daughter and Lok Sabha MP Supriya Sule congratulated the BJP “on their performance” and accepted the defeat of the MVA “with full humility.”


For BJP, it’s 8+1

The BJP has had a successful outing this Rajya Sabha election, picking 8 of the 16 seats in the contest and ensuring the victory of an independent in Haryana. All its candidates in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Haryana won and it picked one of the two seats it had hoped for from Rajasthan.

“We clearly need to introspect on what went right and what went wrong. Actually if you look at the numbers game, clearly we didn’t have the right numbers till the end. But we took a chance because we genuinely had done very good work and the data speaks for itself that MVA has done good work. But obviously there are some gaps which we need to understand and study,” she said.

In Haryana where two seats were at stake, the Congress was dealt a blow when Ajay Maken lost to independent candidate Kartikeya Sharma despite having the numbers. The other seat went to BJP’s Krishan Panwar.

While the Congress had 31 MLAs, Maken got only 29 votes because Bishnoi cross-voted and the vote of one of its MLAs was invalidated.

Sharma too secured 29 votes. In the final calculation of votes polled, Maken lost to Sharma with a margin of barely 2/3rd of a vote (0.66 lesser vote than Sharma).

The unexpected defeat of Maken triggered conspiracy theories within the party and calls for fixing accountability. While AICC in-charge of Haryana, Vivek Bansal, who was also Maken’s polling agent, submitted a report to the Congress leadership, detailing the sequence of events and recommended action against Bishnoi, many questions remained.

Bansal, who had seen the ballots of all party MLAs, refused to reveal the name of the MLA whose vote was invalidated.

AICC general secretary K C Venugopal, in a press release, said, “Hon’ble Congress President has expelled Shri Kuldeep Bishnoi from all his present party positions including the post of Special Invitee of the Congress Working Committee with immediate effect.”

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