Jharkhand’s ruling BJP, Opposition Congress win one seat each for Rajya Sabha amid horse trading row; JVM expels an MLA
BJP’s Samir Oraon was first declared a winner as he received the 27 first preference votes while the second BJP candidate, Pradip Sonthalia, lost to Congress candidate Dhiraj Sahu.
PATNA: An election full of suspense and drama for two Rajya Sabha seats from Jharkhand ended with the state’s ruling BJP and the Opposition Congress winning one seat each on Friday.
BJP’s Samir Oraon was first declared a winner as he received the 27 first preference votes. The second BJP candidate, Pradip Sonthalia, lost to Congress candidate Dhiraj Sahu, who was the consensus candidate of the state’s Opposition parties.
Controversy about alleged horse trading began when Opposition JVM legislator Prakash Ram cast his vote and refused to show his ballot to the party’s polling agent, former minister Bandhu Tirkey. This prompted JVM president and former chief minister Babulal Marandi to expel Ram from the party for six years and urge Election Commission of India (ECI) to consider Ram’s vote invalid.
With the first preference votes of 27 MLAs being necessary for the victory of a Rajya Sabha candidate in Jharkhand, the ruling BJP faced criticism for fielding two candidates and necessitating an election. The BJP-led NDA has 47 MLAs – 43 of BJP and four of ally AJSU. The Opposition UPA has 26 MLAs – 18 of JMM, six of Congress and two of JVM – and it was banking on the support of one of three independent MLAs or those of smaller parties for the election of its candidate.
The BJP leadership was confident of securing the victory of both candidates of the party. The final results brought cheer to the Opposition camp. Congress president Rahul Gandhi had met JMM leader and former chief minister Hemant Soren and secured his assurance on the support of JMM legislators for the Congress candidate.
Elections were held as the terms of sitting Rajuya Sabha members Pradeep Balmuchu of Congress and Sanjiv Kumar of JMM are slated for expiry on May 3.
The last Rajya Sabha polls in Jharkhand in 2016 were marred by allegations of horse trading. The ruling BJP had won both the seats as two Opposition MLAs had voted for it. The JMM candidate had lost despite the support from Congress.
The 2016 Rajya Sabha polls were also allegedly influenced by one of Chief Minister Ragubar Das’s close aides, ADGP (Special Branch) Anurag Gupta. ECI asked the state government earlier this month to lodge an FIR against Gupta in connection with those allegations.