In a fresh twist to the pen controversy in Haryana Rajya Sabha polls, it has come to light that the Congress itself had sought rejection of all votes marked with an “unauthorised” pen, a couple of hours before its 12 MLAs cast their ballot.
While AICC communications department in-charge Randeep Singh Surjewala and Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Kiran Choudhary had cast their votes in the morning of June 11 itself, the 12 MLAs whose votes were finally declared invalid by the election commission had voted between 12.30 pm and 1.30 pm.
But a couple of hours before that, Surjewala had written to the Returning Officer, saying “some members had used unauthorised instrument to vote. Same is impermissible and has been done to identify the vote separately…. Please take action to reject any such ballot which is not marked in/with an authorized instrument and discloses identity in any manner.”
The letter was also signed by polling agents of Indian National Lok Dal (Rampal Majra) and Haryana Janhit Congress (Shanti Swaroop).
Interestingly, the Congress MLAs were not warned about the “switching of pens” before they went to vote. The election commission had declared as invalid the votes of 12 Congress MLAs for marking their ballot with an “unauthorised” pen. As a result, BJP-backed media baron Subhash Chandra defeated senior lawyer RK Anand who was reportedly assured of support by the Congress and the INLD.
Releasing the letter, independent legislator Bhai Jai Prakash or JP, as he is called by his supporters, alleged that “facts and documentary evidence prove that “conspiracy to defeat Anand was hatched” by the Congress itself.
“Why are they making a hue and cry now? They knew what is going to happen? As his party’s election agent, Surjewala should have checked the votes of Congress MLAs,” Prakash said, adding, they clearly didn’t want Anand to win.
However, Surjewala denied the charge but admitted that he had written the letter. “Between 9.30 am and 10 am, an unauthorized instrument was alleged to have been found in the box meant for marking the ballot. So, the election agents of Congress, INLD and HJC gave a representation to the RO to forewarn him,” he told HT. “The switching and re-switching of pens took place between 1 pm and 3 pm. Hence, the letter has no connection with the conspiracy hatched by the BJP to fudge minority into majority by getting 12 Congress votes rejected,” he added.
Meanwhile, winning independent candidate Subhash Chandra alleged that it was the cancellation of votes of 12 Congress MLAs at the behest of Congress MLA Randeep Surjewala that resulted in his win. Surjewala, however, rubbished Chandra’s allegation and said that it was “a pot calling a kettle black”.