PATNA: Hours after one of its two Rajya Sabha candidates suffered a surprise defeat by a narrow margin, Jharkhand’s ruling BJP on Saturday asserted that the election of Congress candidate Dheeraj Sahu was secured through illegal means as a convicted MLA was allowed to cast his vote.
Sahu, who was the consensus candidate of the Opposition parties, was announced the winner after an election full of suspense and drama as he secured 26 first preference votes. BJP’s second candidate, Pradeep Sonthalia, lost because his secured 25.99 votes. While all the 80 MLAs had voted, two votes were nullified.
“The election of the Congress candidate is legally untenable as it happened because a convicted MLA of JMM, who lost his membership of the state Assembly, was allowed to cast his vote in contravention of the established law. His vote is clearly invalid. We will challenge Dheeraj Sahu’s election in Jharkhand High Court,” said state BJP general secretary Deepak Prakash.
Even as polling for Rajya Sabha seats was on, Amit Mahto, the JMM legislator from Silli Assembly constituency, was convicted by a local court in a criminal case of 2006 and handed a two-year imprisonment sentence. Mahto, however, had cast his vote at the Assembly about an hour before the judgment was delivered by the court of additional judicial commissioner Diwakar Pandey.
“The JMM legislator’s membership of Assembly was nullified the moment he was convicted. So his vote should not have been counted as valid. Using his vote to announce the victory of a candidate is illegal,” said Prakash.
The BJP leader cited the Supreme Court’s 2013 judgment that said that an elected representative of the people loses his membership of the House concerned when he is convicted with a prison sentence of two years or more.
“The returning officer was informed at 11:30 AM that Amit Mahto has been convicted and sentences to two years in jail. Despite this, his vote was counted and the Congress candidate was declared the winner,” said BJP legislator Anant Ojha.
BJP leaders also alleged that both JMM and Congress tried to conceal the fact that Amit Mahto was convicted. State Congress president Ajoy Kumar and Opposition leader Hemant Soren of JMM, however, rubbished these allegations.
“We are prepared to face any legal or political challenge coming before us. BJP is using all tricks in its books to snatch both the Rajya Sabha seats ever since it fielded two candidates despite having the numbers for only one candidate’s victory,” said Soren.