Two absent MLAs, including one arrested in the morning, another MLA arriving to vote in an ambulance, allegations of cross-voting and a crucial transfer of excess votes. Finally, the drama surrounding polls for the two Rajya Sabha seats in NDA-ruled Jharkhand Saturday culminated in the BJP completing a sweep.
Of the ruling party’s two candidates, Union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi won comfortably with 29 first-preference votes — calculated as 2,900, as per the official formula where each vote carries a value of 100. But industrialist Mahesh Poddar faced a stiff contest from the Opposition Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) candidate Basant Soren, the youngest son of party founder Shibu Soren.
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What made the difference for Poddar was the transfer of 266 excess “votes” from Naqvi, as per the voting formula, which got him a figure of 2,666. Soren was pushed to third place with 2,600 “votes”.
In effect, Soren fell short of the winning mark of 27 by one vote and Poddar by three, but the second-preference votes that got transferred to the BJP state treasurer took him through.
Election officials said 79 of the 81 MLAs in the assembly cast their votes. “The second candidate of the BJP won on the basis of higher second preference votes,” said Vinay Kumar Singh, Returning Officer.
Following its victory, the BJP rejected allegations that state machinery was used to keep away Opposition MLAs, and claimed that it had “worked out the calculations carefully”. “We knew that the Opposition did not have a second-preference option. So, if the Opposition candidate remained short of the winning mark, the second-preference votes would come into play. Therefore, strategically, we got three of our MLAs, including Chief Minister Raghubar Das, to vote for Poddar as second preference,” said Radha Krishna Kishore, the party chief whip.
In the end, the Opposition was left ruing the absence of JMM MLA Chamra Linda and Congress legislator Devendra Singh, who failed to reach the assembly.
Of the two, it was Linda’s absence, following his arrest, that sent the political temperature in the state soaring with police detaining him at a private hospital in Ranchi on Friday, where he had been admitted. As Congress and JMM leaders got a whiff of the move, they rushed to the hospital and accused the BJP of using “muscle power” to detain Linda.
On Saturday morning, police formally placed Linda under arrest for a 2013 case of alleged assault on a government official. Sources said police reviewed the case a few days ago and got a warrant issued in Linda’s name on June 9.
Two other Congress MLAs also faced warrants issued earlier. Devender Singh faced charges of alleged links to Naxals, while Nirmala Kumari was accused of leading a violent protest in Barkagaon.
But acting JMM chief and Leader of Opposition, Hemant Soren, pulled off a coup of sorts by bringing Kumari to the assembly in his own cavalcade.
The other dramatic scene of the day was the arrival of Jharkhand Party’s Enos Ekka, who was in jail in connection with the murder of a teacher. On Saturday, he reached the assembly in an ambulance from a hospital where he had been admitted, and brought in for voting on a wheelchair.
Ekka is said to have voted for the BJP, like many other single MLAs from smaller parties, including Gita Koda, the wife of Madhu Koda, Bhanu Pratap Shahi, and the lone Bahujan Samaj Party MLA Shiv Pujan Mehta. “I voted as per my conscience,” said Mehta.
Minister C P Singh, who was the BJP’s polling agent, said: “The Opposition has been left with nothing and are accusing us of all wrongdoings. We won on the basis of calculations.”
“What we have seen in Jharkhand is shocking. Just before voting, three MLAs were issued warrants of arrest, and two of them could not vote for the fear of being arrested. The kind of money and muscle power that the BJP government has used to win these elections is disturbing,” said Congress spokesperson R P N Singh.