New Delhi: Amid allegations of attempts at horse-trading in the Rajya Sabha elections in four states, Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar on Thursday said special observers have been appointed to oversee the poll process which will be videographed.
Bienniel elections to 57 Rajya Sabha seats were announced recently and all 41 candidates in Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Punjab, Telangana, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand were declared elected unopposed last Friday.
However, elections will be held for 16 seats of Haryana, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Karnataka on Friday as the number of candidates exceeds the seats going to the polls.
Taking questions after announcing the schedule for the presidential election, Kumar said "We have appointed special observers in all the four places (states). The entire process will be videographed."
Seeking to keep their flock together, major political parties have corralled their MLAs in hotels and resorts, amid accusations of attempts at poaching.
RAJASTHAN MLAs HEAD TO ASSEMBLY FROM RESORTS TO VOTE
BSP-turned-Congress MLAs, who had expressed resentment with the ruling Congress government in Rajasthan, were among those who cast their votes as soon as the voting began for the Rajya Sabha elections for the four seats in the state on Friday morning.
The voting started at 9 am in the assembly building and will continue till 4 pm and counting will start at 5 pm, an official spokesperson said.
The MLAs came to the assembly building with Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and cast their votes.
Gehlot reached the assembly shortly before 9 am and the first bus with the Congress MLAs also reached the assembly with Randeep Surjewala, one of the three candidates of the Congress.
BJP MLAs reached the assembly in two buses while two more buses with Congress and other supporting MLAs will reach after some time.
Congress and supporting MLAs were staying in a hotel on Delhi road while BJP MLAs were staying at another hotel on Agra road.
BSP-turned Congress MLAs including Rajendra Gudha, Sandeep Yadav, Wajib Ali also reached the assembly with the CM and exercised their franchise.
Candidates: The Congress has fielded Mukul Wasnik, Pramod Tiwari and Randeep Surjewala for the polls while the BJP has chosen as its official candidate former minister Ghanshyam Tiwari, who earlier was an open critic of former Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje.
The Congress and the BJP are set to comfortably win two and one seats, respectively.
Media baron Subhash Chandra has made the contest interesting by entering the fray as a BJP-backed independent candidate. Chandra's entry prompted Congress to allege horse-trading attempts and the party shifted its MLAs to the Udaipur hotel, an exercise that was done during the previous Rajya Sabha elections in 2020 also.
The BJP also shifted its MLAs to a hotel on the outskirts of Jaipur on June 6 in the name of a "training camp".
Strength: In the House of 200, the Congress has 108 MLAs, BJP 71, Independent 13, Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) three, CPI(M) and Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP) two each.
The Congress needs 123 votes to win three seats. The party claims it has the support of a total of 126 MLAs.One candidate needs 41 votes to win.
There are 10 seats of the Rajya Sabha from Rajasthan and currently the BJP has seven and the Congress three MPs.
Reason for election: The elections to the four seats are taking place as BJP's Omprakash Mathur, K J Alphons, Ramkumar Verma and Harshardhan Singh Dungarpur are going to complete their term on July 4.
The other other three Rajya Sabha MPs of the BJP are Kirodi Lal, Bhupendra Yadav (Union minister) and Rajendra Gehlot.
The Congress Rajya Sabha MPs from Rajasthan are former PM Manmohan Singh, party general Secretary K C Venugopal and Neeraj Dangi.
VOTING UNDERWAY IN MAHARASHTRA
Voting is underway for six Rajya Sabha seats in Maharashtra at the Vidhan Bhavan, the state legislature complex here on Friday, with a close contest being played out between the state's ruling Shiv Sena and the opposition BJP for the sixth seat.
The polling process, which began at 9 am, will go on till 4 pm and the results will be declared in the evening.
Candidates: There are a total of seven candidates in the fray for six seats. While the BJP has fielded Union minister Piyush Goyal, former state minister Anil Bonde and former MP Dhananjay Mahadik, the Shiv Sena has given opportunity to MP Sanjay Raut and Sanjay Pawar. From the NCP, Praful Patel is in the election ring, while the Congress has fielded Imran Pratapgarhi.
The contest is primarily for the sixth seat - between BJP's Mahadik and Sena's Pawar. This is after more than two decades that Maharashtra is witnessing a contest in the Rajya Sabha polls.
The 288-member Legislative Assembly is the electoral college for the biennial elections. But the total votes have come down to 285 since there is a vacancy due to the death of Shiv Sena MLA Ramesh Latke and a special court on Thursday rejecting the pleas filed by minister Nawab Malik and former minister Anil Deshmukh seeking a day's bail to vote in the elections.
After the special court's decision, Malik and Deshmukh, who are currently in jail in separate money laundering cases, on Thursday evening approached the Bombay High Court for relief. The high court is scheduled to hear their pleas in the morning.
Strength: Shiv Sena has 55 MLAs, NCP 53, Congress 44 , BJP 106, Bahujan Vikas Aghadi (BVA) three, Samajwadi party, AIMIM and Prahar Janshakti party two each, MNS, CPI(M), PWP, Swabhimani Party, Rashtriya Samaj Paksh, Jansurajya Shakti party, Krantikari Shetkari Party one each, and there are 13 independent legislators.
The quota for the first preference votes has come down to 41. Congress and NCP have decided to transfer their second preference votes to Shiv Sena's Sanjay Pawar.
For the last couple of days, the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) allies (Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress) and the opposition BJP had kept their respective legislators in different hotels in Mumbai, where the party leaders explained to them the process of preferential system of voting.
On Friday morning, BJP legislators were the first to arrive at the Vidhan Bhavan in three buses for voting.
Minister of State Dattatraya Bharne, who belongs to the NCP, was the first to cast his vote.
Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly Devendra Fadnavis, NCP leader and Home Minister Dilip Walse Patil, Food and Civil Supplies Minister Chhagan Bhujbal also arrived at the venue in the morning.
Bhujbal, a senior NCP leader, expressed confidence that all four candidates of the MVA will win. Congress leader and Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat also said that the MVA candidates will sail through comfortably in the first round.
Energy Minister Nitin Raut said the MVA is united, while state Congress chief Nana Patole said countdown has begun for the BJP to face defeat.
Health Minister Rajesh Tope, an NCP leader, said there were no differences among the MVA allies.
Meanwhile, ailing BJP MLA Laxman Jagtap is being brought to Mumbai in an ambulance from Pune for voting.
The All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) decided to vote in favour of the Congress candidate. The announcement was made by AIMIM Lok Sabha member from Aurangabad Imtiaz Jaleel hours before the polling began.
Meanwhile, describing AIMIM as the "B team" of the ruling alliance, BJP legislator Atul Bhatkalkar said that was the reason why its two legislators were supporting the MVA candidates.
Cong & JDS fail to strike deal in Karnataka
Voting is underway in the Rajya Sabha polls for four seats from Karnataka as suspense continues over the outcome of the fourth seat, for which all three political parties are contenders, despite none of them having adequate number of votes to win it.
The voting that began at 9 AM will go on till 4 PM and counting of votes will take place at 5 PM, after the polling hours.
Six candidates are in the fray in the Rajya Sabha elections from the state, necessitating a contest for the fourth seat.
Despite not having the adequate number of votes to win the fourth seat from the state Assembly, all the three political parties -- BJP, Congress and JD(S) -- have fielded candidates for the seat, forcing an election.
Fearing cross-voting, all three political parties have issued a whip, asking their respective MLAs to vote for their candidates.
The worry of ensuring that its numbers are intact and there is no cross-voting is greater for JD(S) and the party had last night shifted its MLAs to a hotel in the city. Its Kolar MLA K Srinivas Gowda has already declared that he will vote for the Congress candidate.
JD(S) fears a repeat of the 2016 Rajya Sabha polls, when eight rebel MLAs voted against its official candidate and supported the Congress. Most of these rebels managed to get Congress' tickets for 2018 Assembly polls. There are reports that some MLAs are even in touch with the BJP.
Candidates: The six candidates in the fray for Rajya Sabha polls from the state are -- Nirmala Sitharaman, actor-politician Jaggesh and outgoing MLC Lehar Singh Siroya from the BJP, former Union Minister Jairam Ramesh and state general secretary Mansoor Ali Khan from the Congress, and former MP D Kupendra Reddy from the JD(S).
A candidate needs the support of 45 MLAs to win and based on their strength in the Legislative Assembly, the BJP can win two seats and the Congress one.
After getting two Rajya Sabha candidates (Sitharaman and Jaggesh) elected on its own strength in the Assembly, the BJP will be left with an additional 32 MLA votes.
The Congress will be left with 25 MLA votes after electing Jairam Ramesh, while the JD(S) has only 32 MLAs, which is not sufficient to win a seat.
While polling will take place between 9 am to 4 pm tomorrow, counting of votes will take place at 5 pm, after the polling hours.
Official sources said as there are three candidates for the fourth seat and none of them have adequate number of votes to win, a situation may arise where the second and third preferential votes may have to be counted if necessary.
There is also a view that the BJP may be at an advantage if preferential votes were to be counted and the Congress and JD(S) don't come to any understanding or if there is no cross-voting.
The BJP, which held its Legislature Party meet on Wednesday night has issued a whip to its MLAs asking them to vote for the party candidates.
The ruling party has tasked three ministers -- R Ashoka, V Sunil Kumar and B C Nagesh -- to oversee the voting process.
Reason for polls: The election to four Rajya Sabha seats is necessitated as the term of office of members Nirmala Sitharaman and K C Ramamurthy of BJP, and Jairam Ramesh -- is due to expire on June 30. The fourth member Oscar Fernandes of the Congress passed away last year.
Haryana Cong MLAs to reach Chandigarh soon for RS polls
Polling for the two Rajya Sabha seats from Haryana was underway here on Friday with Congress MLAs, who were lodged in a resort in Chattisgarh's Raipur due to fear of poaching, on their way to Chandigarh.
The ruling BJP-JJP MLAs, who had remained lodged at a resort here since Wednesday, had started reaching here to cast their votes.
The polling for the two seats will be held from 9 am to 4 pm and counting of votes will be taken up soon after, officials said.
While the BJP with 40 MLAs in the 90-member Haryana Assembly has nine more than the 31 first preference votes required for a straight win, the contest has become keen for the second seat with the entry of media baron Kartikeya Sharma, an Independent.
He has the backing of BJP-JJP combine, the Independents, and Gopal Kanda, lone MLA of the Haryana Lokhit Party.
The BJP has fielded former Minister Krishan Lal Panwar, while Ajay Maken, a former Union minister, is the Congress nominee.
The Congress has 31 members in the state Assembly, just enough to help its candidate win a seat. Its prospects could be in jeopardy in case of cross-voting.
On Thursday, lone Indian National Lok Dal MLA Abhay Singh Chautala declared his support to Kartikeya Sharma.
Strength: In the 90-member Haryana Assembly, the BJP has 40 MLAs while the Congress has 31. The JJP, which is an ally of the BJP, has 10 legislators while the Indian National Lok Dal and Haryana Lokhit Party have one each and seven are independents.
Two Rajya Sabha seats from Haryana will fall vacant in August with the terms of media baron Subhash Chandra and BJP leader Dushyant Gautam expiring.
(With PTI inputs.)