Mumbai/Chandigarh/Bengaluru/Jaipur: Union ministers Nirmala Sitharaman and Piyush Goyal, Randeep Surjewala and Jairam Ramesh of the Congress and Shiv Sena's Sanjay Raut were among the 16 candidates elected to the Rajya Sabha from four states where polling was held on Friday after tussle over cross voting and alleged breach of election rules delayed the counting by around eight hours in Maharashtra and Haryana.
In a show of astute election management, two BJP candidates and an Independent backed by the party, who had an outside chance of getting elected, clinched victories in Karnataka, Maharashtra and Haryana.
BJP wins three out of six in Maharashtra
Maharashtra's ruling Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress alliance suffered a jolt as the main opposition BJP won three of the six Rajya Sabha seats in the state, the results of which were announced early Saturday.
The BJP winners include Union minister Piyush Goyal, former state minister Anil Bonde, and Dhananjay Mahadik. Shiv Sena's ubiquitous face Sanjay Raut, NCP's Praful Patel, a former union minister, and Congress' Imran Pratapgarhi also won the fiercely-fought elections.
Former MP Dhananjay Mahadik of the BJP defeated Shiv Sena's Sanjay Pawar for the sixth seat.
"Elections are contested not just for the fight, but the victory. Jai Maharashtra," tweeted BJP's Devendra Fadnavis, the leader of the opposition whose refusal to have consensus candidates for the Rajya Sabha forced elections in the state for the Upper House of Parliament after 24 years.
Cong suffers major setback in Haryana
The Congress suffered a major setback in Haryana where BJP's Krishan Lal Panwar and the saffron party-backed Independent candidate Kartikeya Sharma won the two seats for which elections were held, while the grand old party's Ajay Maken, a former union minister, lost.
Returning Officer R K Nandal said Panwar got 36 votes, while Sharma got 23 first preference votes and 6.6 votes transferred by the BJP, taking his tally to 29.6. It was a photo-finish as Maken got 29 votes, but lost on account of having failed to secure any second preference votes.
Congress MLA and authorised polling agent B B Batra said while the vote of a party MLA was declared invalid, Kuldeep Bishnoi cross-voted for Sharma, a media baron who had entered the poll fray as an Independent candidate supported by the BJP and its ally JJP.
Speaking to reporters at the Vidhan Sabha complex shortly after 4 am, Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar said, "I thank all those MLAs who voted for the BJP candidate and the Independent candidate. This in a way is a victory for the people of Haryana and a victory of democracy."
Replying to a question on Bishnoi voting for Sharma, Khattar said, "He voted listening to his inner conscience. I can say that he must have voted after being influenced by the policies and achievements of the Modi government. He did not bother what action the Congress will take...I congratulate him."
"The party will welcome him if he joins it," the BJP leader said when asked if the party's doors are open to him.
BJP bags all three seats in Karnataka
In an emphatic endorsement for the BJP in Karnataka, the ruling party had the last laugh as it won all the three Rajya Sabha seats it contested out of the four that went to polls.
The main opposition Congress managed to win only one of the two seats for which its nominees were in the fray, while the JD(S) drew a blank.
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, actor-politician Jaggesh, and MLC Lehar Singh Siroya of the BJP, and former Union Minister Jairam Ramesh of the Congress were declared victorious.
Sitharaman and Ramesh have been re-elected to the Rajya Sabha from Karnataka.
There was suspense over the outcome of the fight for the fourth seat, which witnessed a tight contest between all the three major political parties none of which had enough votes for an easy win.
However, BJP's Siroya triumphed over Mansoor Ali Khan of the Congress and D Kupendra Reddy (JDS), apparently aided by cross-voting from rival parties and the help of Independents.
Congress saves face in Rajasthan
In Rajasthan, the ruling Congress won three of the four seats and the BJP one.
BJP-backed Independent nominee and media baron Subhash Chandra, whose entry into the fray had added spice to the electoral tussle, fell by the wayside. Chandra, who had won the last RS election as an Independent from Haryana, tried his luck from Rajasthan.
Congress candidates Randeep Surjewala, Mukul Wasnik and Pramod Tiwari were declared elected, and so was BJP's Ghanshyam Tiwari.
In an interesting development, BJP MLA Shobharani Kushwah cross-voted in favour of Congress candidate Pramod Tiwari. The BJP promptly suspended her from the party's primary membership.
"When everybody knows that 126 MLAs are with us, why did they (BJP) field an independent candidate? They wanted to attempt horse-trading but that did not happen," a jubilant Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot told reporters at the Assembly complex in Jaipur.
The victory of the Congress candidates has sent out a strong message in the country, he said, asserting the party will retain power in the Assembly elections next year.
Counting amid intense wrangling by rival parties
The results were declared in Karnataka and Rajasthan on Friday night but got delayed in Maharashtra and Haryana amid intense wrangling by rival parties over alleged breach of voting rules.
The Election Commission gave the go-ahead for counting after going through detailed reports submitted by the returning officers, including video footage.
The opposition BJP in Maharashtra alleged three MLAs of the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) – Cabinet ministers Jitendra Awhad (NCP) and Yashomati Thakur (Congress), besides Shiv Sena legislator Suhas Kande violated the model code for voting.
The Congress retaliated, demanding that the Election Commission invalidate the votes of BJP MLA Sudhir Mungantiwar and Independent MLA Ravi Rana.
State Congress president Nana Patole, in a letter to the CEC claimed Mungantiwar "vitiated the voting procedure" by showing his ballot paper to people other than his own party's election agents. Rana openly displayed the Hanuman Chalisa, a religious book, and sought to influence other voters, he alleged.
The poll panel directed the returning officer of Maharashtra to reject the vote cast by Shiv Sena legislator Suhas Kande.
The counting was also put on hold in Haryana for identical reasons after BJP nominee Krishan Lal Panwar and Independent candidate Kartikeya Sharma shot off a missive to the EC, alleging Congress MLAs Kiran Choudhary and B B Batra showed their ballot papers to unauthorised persons after marking them and that the episodes were "duly captured" on cameras.
The elections were held in the four states amid apprehension of horse trading and allegations of inducement for cross voting. Major parties shepherded their MLAs to hotels and scenic resorts to keep their flock together but could not stop some sheep from leaping over the ditch.