An age row between two Opposition candidates and the subsequent withdrawal of nomination by one of them saw Prime Minister Manmohan Singh being elected uncontested to the Rajya Sabha from Assam on Thursday, a week ahead of the scheduled date of polling.
Also declared elected was Kumar Dipak Das of the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP).
While this is the fourth RS straight term for the PM—he was first elected from Assam in 1991 after former Chief Minister Hiteswar Saikia made him his tenant almost overnight—Das would be making his parliamentary debut.
The elections for two of the seven RS seats from Assam were necessitated with the current term of Singh and the BJP's Indramoni Bora ending on June 14.
"The certificates declaring the two candidates winners were handed over a little after 3 pm, the deadline for withdrawal of nominations," said Assam Assembly secretary GP Das. While State Water Resources Minister Bharat Chandra Narah collected the declaration on behalf of the PM, Das collected it himself.
The withdrawal of nomination by Asom United Democratic Front (AUDF) candidate Matang Singh—a former Union minister, he was expelled by the Congress some time back—earlier in the day had facilitated the declaration of results. Nomination by a fourth candidate, record-breaking election loser K Padmarajan of Mettur in Tamil Nadu, was rejected on technical grounds.
Though no one had doubted the PM's re-election, Matang Singh's entry into the fray had reportedly made the Congress jittery. The latter claimed he was under pressure from the Congress High Command to back out. "Shivraj Patil, Ahmed Patel and others had been pressuring me to withdraw, but I decided to quit keeping the PM's status in mind," said Matang Singh later.
Matang Singh had in 1992 upset the Congress applecart by winning a Rajya Sabha seat from Assam. He was then the party's second choice candidate, but had allegedly engineered cross voting that saw Naren Sarma, the party's primary candidate, losing.
Notably, Dipak Das and Matang Singh had on Tuesday sparred over the age of each other's RS candidate. Each claimed the other had doctored his age while filing nomination. The matter went to the apex court, and the AUDF has vowed to challenge Das' RS victory.
Ironically, PM's re-election to the RS came 24 hours after the outlawed ULFA questioned his right to represent Assam. "Manmohan Singh is a representative of colonial India, and unlike Che Guevara (an Argentine who fought for Fidel Castro's Cuban cause) he has not shed a drop of blood for Assam," the outfit said in the latest edition of its e-mouthpiece Freedom.