The polling hall in the Uttar Pradesh Vidhan Bhavan turned into a battlefield as MLAs of the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) clashed during voting for 11 Rajya Sabha seats on Saturday.
The process was temporarily disrupted as lawmakers lunged for each other’s ballot papers in the melee. The legislative assembly principal secretary and returning officer, Pradeep Dubey, had to intervene to calm the agitated legislators and restore voting. Marshals were also summoned to control irate MLAs in to the Tilak Hall where polling was underway.
Pandemonium broke when both parties accused the other of attempting to lure MLAs into cross-voting, i.e., legislators from one party voting for a candidate from another party.
Talking to Hindustan Times, BJP’s Krishna Paswan and Vimala Batham said, “The SP MLAs present in the polling hall stopped us from casting (our) vote… When we insisted they tried to snatch our ballot papers. We registered protest with the returning officer Pradeep Dubey and demanded security. Later we managed to cast our votes.”
The BJP intends to lodge a complaint with the Election Commission against the ruling party’s “terror tactics adopted by MLAs in the polling hall”.
SP’s Sankhlal Manjhi and Zamirullah Khan refuted the allegation, countering it with their own. The legislators alleged that the saffron brigade was trying to lure their MLAs to support independent candidate Preeti Mahapatra.
“BJP is backing the independent candidate and feared that Preeti Mahapatra will lose. The BJP MLAs were trying to disrupt the election with wild allegations,” they claimed.
Matters were already complicated when the SP’s Guddu Pandit came with BJP MLA Sangeet Singh Som.
Contrarily, rebel BJP MLA Vijay Bahadur Yadav accompanied SP MLA, Rajkumar Yadav, indicating cross-voting.
Congress’ Akhilesh Pratap Singh said the BJP leaders indulged in horse trading to ensure victory of independent candidate supported by them.
Unlike the Lok Sabha, there isn’t an anti-defection law that penalises cross-voting in the Rajya Sabha elections. Matters get even more knotty as it follows an open, single transferable voting system where candidates are marked based on degrees of preference. To win, a candidate must score a fixed set of votes, failing which, the vote is given to the next preferred candidate, and so on.
The SP fielded seven candidates while the Congress fielded one – former union minister Kapil Sibal, the BSP fielded two and the BJP one. Preeti Mahapatra is the lone independent candidate in the field, but is being backed by the BJP.
The leader of SP, Shivpal Singh Yadav, BJP leader Suresh Khanna, BSP leader Swami Prasad Maurya and Congress leader Pradeep Mathur were seated in the polling hall to keep watch on the MLAs.
The legislators showed the ballot paper to their leaders before slotting it in the ballot box.