Congress carpetbagger from Uttar Pradesh Sanjay Singh easily made his way to Rajya Sabha from Assam but Bengal threw up the real drama of the elections to the Upper House as blatant cross-voting by opposition MLAs allowed all four Trinamool Congress candidates to romp home on Friday.
The Trinamool candidates included veteran actor Mithun Chakravarty.
In Odisha, the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) won three seats while one went to the Congress amidst talks of large-scale horse-trading while in Andhra Pradesh, the Congress bagged three out of six and the Telegu Desam Party took two. The remaining seat was bagged by the Telangana Rashtriya Samiti.
READ: Cross-voting in Bengal leaves Front, Cong red faced
But the talk of the day was the manner in which the Congress and Left Front were left bleeding in Bengal with their MLAs cross-voting blatantly in essaying a precedence that was rare in Bengal politics.
Three Left Front MLAs – Ananta Deb Adhikari from Mainaguri, Dasarath Tirkey from Kumargram (both RSP) and Sunil Mondal from Galsi (Forward Bloc) – voted for the Trinamool candidate amid allegations of money power from the Left.
Congress suspended two of its MLAs for six years for casting their votes in favour of the Trinamool candidate, while Revolutionary Socialist Party initiated the process of throwing out the two MLAs from the party.
The Congress MLAs who voted for the rival candidate were Imani Biswas from Suti (Murshidabad) and Sushil Roy from Gajol (Malda).
As a result, Trinamool candidate Ahmed Hassan, who is also the editor of an Urdu daily, won securing 47 votes. The Congress candidate AS Malihabadi who lost got 44 votes.
“The ruling party is sitting on piles of cash. They think money can dictate everything,” said Left Front chairman Biman Bose.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee retorted, “Those who are in other parties but have voted for our candidate have done so as they want to work for Trinamool Congress.”
The ruling party candidates to win were actor Mithun Chakravarty, artist Jogen Chowdhury, businessman KD Singh and Ahmed Hassan. Left candidate Ritobrata Banerjee also won.
In Assam, the Congress and its ally Bodoland People’s Front (BPF)’s candidates had no problems as all three of them were elected quite comfortably amidst a series of demonstrations by NGOs protesting the ‘imposition of an outsider’.
Assam has seven Rajya Sabha seats, election to three of which was held in the 126-member assembly on Friday.
The Congress had put up Singh and Assam Pradesh Congress Committee president Bhubaneswar Kalita while BPF fielded Biswajit Daimary.
Kalita and Daimary won for the second straight term.
As the MLAs trooped in to elect their representatives to the Upper House, members of All Assam Students’ Union (Aasu) demonstrated outside and burnt effigies of Congress legislators.
They were protesting the party’s nomination of Sanjay Singh, Congress MP from Sultanpur (Uttar Pradesh) for one of the seats.
“The Congress has imposed Sanjay Singh on the people of Assam. Every Assamese who has self-respect should oppose him. Singh is not from Assam and is also not aware of the issues dogging the state,” Samujjal Bhattacharyya, Aasu advisor, said.
Other NGOs such as Assam Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chhatra Parishad said Sanjay Singh was one “outsider” too many imposed on the people of the state. He was referring to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who has been a Rajya Sabha member from Assam since 1991.
While Sanjay Singh’s victory was assured, a question mark had hung over Daimary as the Opposition – its combined strength was 33 – had put up former journalist Haider Hussain as their common candidate.
The Opposition constituents are the ideologically disparate All India United Democratic Front (18 MLAs), Asom Gana Parishad (nine), BJP (five) and Trinamool Congress (one).
Along with two independents, the Congress-BPF had 93 legislators, three short of the requisite number.
Hussain, however, managed only 26 votes as one Opposition member skipped the voting while the votes of six others were cancelled on technical grounds.
Assam health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma scotched the allegations and termed them as a case of sour grapes.
In Odisha, the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) won three Rajya Sabha seats while the opposition Congress won one in a nail-biting finish amid high drama and speculation of large-scale horse-trading.
Odisha panchayati raj minister Kalpataru Das, textile, handloom and handicraft minister Sarojini Hembrum and senior BJD leader AU Singh Deo were elected unopposed on the ruling party’s own strength.
But BJD-backed Independent candidate, Padma Vibhusan awardee sculptor Raghunath Mohapatra, lost the election to Congress’s candidate, Indian Premier League chairman Ranjib Biswal.
Mohapatra’s loss was a setback to Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik, who had handpicked him as the fourth candidate.
“I am happy that three BJD candidates have won. It is very sad that the Independent (candidate) lost it,” Patnaik said after the announcement of the results.
The current state assembly has 107 BJD MLAs as against, the Congress’ 27, BJP’s six and Communist Party of India (CPI)’s one. There are six Independents in the house.
Down south in Andhra Pradesh, out of six seats, the Congress bagged three including industrialist T Subbarami Reddy, MA Khan, and KVP Ramachandra Rao.
The Telegu Desam Party won two seats, while K Keshava Rao of the Telangana Rashtriya Samiti was also elected.
A Congress rebel candidate pulled out at the last minute, enabling the TRS victory. Congress MLA
D Venkateswara Rao, husband of Union minister D Purandeswari, becoming the first legislator to exercise the None-of-the-Above (NOTA) option.