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Haryana Rajya Sabha polls: Hooda ‘rebellion’ ensures defeat for Congress-backed lawyer RK Anand

All 17 Congress MLAs were against voting for Anand, who was backed by state rival INLD — but their objections had been overruled by their party high command.

Written by Khushboo Sandhu, Manoj C G | New Delhi/chandigarh |
June 12, 2016 4:08:46 am
Haryana, haryana rajya sabha, hooda, rajya sabha haryana, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, haryana news, congress haryana, haryana congress, congress news, india news BJP supported candidate for Rajya Sabha, Zee Media Chairman Subhash Chandra and Indian National Lok Dal & Congress supported candidate for Rajya Sabha RK Anand, during polling in Chandigarh on Saturday. (PTI Photo)

The big surprises of the Rajya Sabha elections on Saturday came in Haryana and Jharkhand, where candidates of the BJP denied victories to Congress-backed nominees who were considered fairly certain to enter Parliament.

With the results in the rest of the 25 seats for which voting was held coming along largely expected lines, the BJP emerged as the biggest gainer of the elections. Twenty-seven seats in seven states were up for grabs on Saturday, 30 of the total 57 vacancies having been already decided without a contest.

Union ministers M Venkaiah Naidu, Nirmala Sitharaman, Chaudhary Birender Singh and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi won, as did senior Congress leaders Kapil Sibal, Jairam Ramesh and Oscar Fernandes. In Karnataka, eight JD(S) MLAs defied the party whip to vote against their official candidate, and support the Congress.

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In Haryana, lawyer R K Anand, who was backed by the INLD and Congress, had the numbers to sail through. But the votes of 14 Congress MLAs — all belonging to the Bhupinder Singh Hooda camp — were rejected, and the BJP-backed independent candidate, media baron Subhash Chandra, won, defeating Anand. The BJP’s first candidate, Rural Development Minister Birender Singh, won comfortably.

All 17 Congress MLAs were against voting for Anand, who was backed by state rival INLD — but their objections had been overruled by their party high command. At a meeting of the MLAs on Friday, AICC general secretary B K Hariprasad had announced that Congress president Sonia Gandhi wanted to ensure the defeat of Chandra — they would, therefore, have to support Anand.

On Saturday, all votes barring those of Congress Legislature Party leader Kiran Choudhary, Kuldeep Bishnoi, and his wife Renuka, were found invalid. However, Hariprasad — who was the authorised Congress agent and, therefore, permitted to see the party’s votes — rejected the possibility of sabotage.

“I was the agent of the Congress there. Expect for Hooda, Kiran Choudhary and Randeep Surjewala, I have seen all the votes. All have voted for Anand,” he told The Sunday Express. He said Surjewala had lodged a complaint in the morning itself that a “different pen” was given to the Congress to mark the votes after BJP and INLD members voted. “INLD and BJP used a different colour pen,” Hariprasad said.

Surjewala said: “CLP leader Kiran Choudhary voted first and I voted after her. CLP leader was waiting to show me her vote before depositing in the box. I had voted and my ballot was in my hand. While she showed me her vote and it was correctly put. BJP by a conspiracy or a design objected, saying CLP leader saw my ballot. This is nonsensical. They said it should be rejected… My vote was rejected later.”

Top sources in the Congress said Hooda, the former chief minister, didn’t show his vote to anyone. The sources also alleged that Hooda had left the ballot paper blank.

Hooda denied he had gone against the party’s decision, and both he and all others whose votes were rejected, indeed voted for Anand.

“How does the INLD know whose votes have been cancelled? Our Congress MLAs voted correctly. Our general secretary, who was our agent, saw it. There is no question of a rebellion. We all used the pen that was kept there,” he said. “There is a high-level conspiracy. Our pens and mobiles were kept out. Either (INLD leader) Abhay Chautala has done it or BJP or Vidhan Sabha secretariat could have done it,” Hooda said.

“We had left it to Madam (Sonia) and she decided there was no question of abstaining. R K Anand promised in writing that he will be with Congress and has full faith in Sonia Gandhi. I did not have any personal problem with him. My reservation was only because he was being supported by INLD, but when he said he would support Congress, I agreed,” Hooda said.

Asked why he hadn’t stayed back for the counting, giving himself a chance to protest against the rejection of his and the others’ votes, Hooda said: “We were assured of victory, so there was no point of staying for the counting. R K Anand should file a complaint with the Election Commission. There should be a probe into what has happened and whose conspiracy it is.”

But Anand had already made up his mind. The conspirator was Hooda, he declared on Saturday.

“There was no conspiracy on the part of Congress party high command, but the conspiracy was on the part of Hooda and his camp. Party high command had said one line, that support R K Anand… Hooda’s allegation was that I had not gone through him to file the nomination, but today it would have been his victory as well… What was the need to run away today? All these allegations that are now being levelled by Congress that INLD did cross-voting is actually absurd,” Anand said.

“All these conditions, that after winning, I shall support Congress inside and outside Parliament… were raised by Hooda and his camp. They all came together and reached CLP leader’s residence. There only they must have hatched this conspiracy,” Anand alleged.

Haryana Congress president Ashok Tanwar described the rejection of votes as a “big conspiracy”, and said the party would approach the Election Commission and explore legal options.

“This is very unfortunate. Congress party backed this candidate (Anand) because we wanted to defeat the forces that have misled the country and the state for the last two years and betrayed… every section of society. Congress will get to the bottom of the whole thing. We will take legal recourse and file a complaint with the Election Commission,” Tanwar said.

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