With media baron Subhash Chandra winning the second Rajya Sabha seat in Haryana following the disqualification of 14 votes, political parties have erupted into a vicious blame game.
The pen indeed proved mightier on Saturday when 12 votes meant for RK Anand, an independent candidate backed by the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and Congress, were deemed invalid because they were not marked by the official violet pen provided by the Election Commission (EC).
Instead, Subhash Chandra, an independent candidate backed by the BJP, wrested the seat.
The matter escalated quickly as the INLD accused the ruling BJP of colluding with a Congress faction, led by former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, to ensure Chandra’s victory. The Congress on the other hand blamed the BJP and the INLD of orchestrating the votes and demanded countermanding the election.
INLD leader, Abhay Singh Chautala also alleged that the BJP MLA from Ambala City, Aseem Goyal and independent MLA from Kalayat, Jai Prakash, played a part in the debacle.
“Goel voted at serial number 93. Thirteen Congress MLAs cast their ballot from serial number 94 to 106 which apparently turned out invalid. It seems that Goel changed the Election Commission pen with another pen after casting his ballot. All the 13 Congress MLAs marked their preference on the ballot with that pen only.”
He then went on to say that Prakash, who voted at 107, replaced the EC’s pen
“Only three Congress MLAs- Kuldeep Sharma, Geeta Bhukkal and Kiran Chaudhary voted after Jai Prakash and those votes turned out to be valid.”
In retaliation, Congress MLA from Palwal, Karan Singh Dalal, said he would file a case of criminal defamation against Chautala and Anand for blaming him and Hooda for the debacle. “There is no denying the fact that we were against voting for the INLD-backed candidate, RK Anand. But once he expressed faith in the policies and leadership of the party and the Congress central leadership issued a directive, we changed our mind and voted whole heartedly for Anand. I have cast my ballot as decided by my party. Anyone accusing me of foul play is tarnishing my image,” Dalal said.
Prakash was quick to hit back as well.
“The INLD and Abhay Singh are in a habit of telling blatant lies. First they blamed chief minister, ML Khattar, then they accused Bhupinder Singh Hooda and now they are accusing me of foul play. I have nothing to do with it. I will file a defamation case against Abhay Singh. This entire episode was orchestrated by the INLD,” he said, adding he had, in fact, found out about the pen controversy from Singh.
“Abhay Singh was the one apprised me about the pen controversy and told me the Chief minister’s vote could be cancelled as he had used the non official pen to cast ballot. Now, the chief minister voted in the morning while the Congress MLAs voted in the afternoon. So who put the non official pen at the polling booth in the morning,” the Kalayat MLA said.
BJP MLA Aseem Goyal did not respond to the calls.
Former chief minister, Bhupinder Singh Hooda too rubbished Chautala’s allegations, saying either the INLD or the BJP were the ones who carried out the conspiracy. He called on the EC to use forensic help to figure out what actually happened.
Meanwhile, Haryana Congress chief, Ashok Tanwar said the party is seeking countermanding the election. “Party observer for Rajya Sabha polls, BK Hariprasad and me will meet Congress president, Sonia Gandhi on Monday to apprise her about the developments. We will also take a legal recourse in this regard,” Tanwar said.