NEW DELHI: THE BJP on Saturday narrowed the gap it has vis-à-vis the Congress in the Upper House by posting spectacular upsets for the grand old party in Haryana, Rajasthan and Jharkhand. Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal scraping through in Uttar Pradesh and the party’s third candidate ex-IPS officer KC Ramamurthy besting JD-S-backed B M Farooq in Karnataka were the face savers, amidst what seems an open rebellion in Haryana.
The Congress’ nail-biting fight to the finish was virtually overshadowed by the development of apparent rebellion within. With former Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda leading “the sabotage” of INLD-candidate, RK Anand, whom the Congress top-brass had decided to support to defeat BJP-backed media baron Subash Chandra, the split in the party was brought in the open.
Chandra’s win led to speculation of cross-voting by 14 Congress MLAs. No sooner were the votes cast, than the AICC was buzzing with reports suggesting Hooda had submitted a “blank ballot’’. With the party embarrassed and media cell head Randeep Singh Surjewala, a Hooda acolyte missing, it was left to Salman Khurshid to say “the party will get to the bottom of the matter”. Election Commission sources later said 14 of 17 votes were declared “invalid” as proper ink was not used to cast the votes.
Sources said Congress chief Sonia Gandhi spoke to Hooda Friday to convince him to go along with the party’s decision to back arch-rival INLD’s candidate, who was a Congress-backed candidate in his last Rajya Sabha stint. Already disgruntled with the high command’s moves such as re-induction of non-Jat leader Kuldeep Bishnoi, just as the Jat vote bank is restive with the BJP government, Hooda seems to have rebelled. His problems with Haryana PCC chief, Dalit leader and Rahul-supporter Ashok Tanwar have been brewing for a while, but being asked to support the INLD candidate proved the last straw. AICC leaders fear the split may be formalised, with its politics running contrary to Hooda’s agenda and identity.
In UP, Sibal’s victory was achieved with backing from Mayawati’s BSP. BSP transferred its surplus votes to Congress candidates in UP and Rajasthan. But, in the latter state, all three seats went to BJP and BSP’s lone Haryana MLA voted for Chandra.
In all, of 27 seats across seven states, 11 were won by BJP, six by Congress, seven by Samajwadi Party and two by BSP, one going to an Independent. Earlier, 30 seats in the biennial polls were won uncontested.