Rajya Sabha polls: Ashok Gehlot's political wizardry works in Rajasthan

Gehlot had a challenging task of keeping the flock of 126 MLAs including party's own MLAs and the Independents supporting Congress together to win three seats

Indian National Congress flag
Indian National Congress flag

Prakash Bhandari

The political wizardry of Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot once again proved too heavy for the BJP. Gehlot had a challenging task of keeping the flock of 126 MLAs including party's own MLAs and the Independents supporting Congress together to win three seats that saw Randeep Surjewala (43 votes), Mukul Wasnik (42 votes), Pramod Tiwari (41votes) emerge victors.

The BJP won a single seat when Ghanshyam Towari (43 votes) won. The BJP that had 30 additional votes had to bite the dust when media baron Subhash Chandra, who was supported by the BJP as an Independent with a view to snatch the fourth seat could muster only 30 votes. He failed to muster additional 11 votes. Subhash Chandra, who filed his nomination on June 1 had been claiming the support of five-six Independents and also claimed that five-six Congress MLAs would vote for him through the cross-voting process.

But chief minister Ashok Gehlot used the crisis as an opportunity and ensured that not a single vote could be dented by Chandra. Thus the Rajya Sabha polls saw the three Congress candidates share the entire 126 votes. Gehlot significantly managed to keep the six former BSP MLas, who merged with the Congress and the two Bhartiya Tribals Party’s votes intact.

“The BJP faltered and forced the Rajya sabha elections by fielding Subhash Chandra without having numbers. The BJP ventured into encouraging horse trading by lending support to Subhash Chandra. We knew the BJP’s game plan and fearing the horse-trading, we informed the anti-corruption bureau (ACB) of the possibilities of horse-trading and also went to the Election Commission to be extra vigilant. Our victory is a morale–booster and this way we would go with confidence for the 2023 Vidhan sabha election and would retain the power to serve the people again” said a jubilant Gehlot.

After a lapse of 10 years, Congress will have six members of Rajya sabha. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, AICC organisation secretary K C Venugopal and Neeraj Dangi are the current members. Randeep Surjewala, Mukul Wasnik, and Pramod Tiwari would replace the three BJP sitting members Om Mathur, Harshvardhan Singh, and Ram Kumar Verma.

Gehlot himself served as the polling agent and was seen managing the floor during the voting after voting first.

The BJP which was claiming that Subhash Chandra would win because a number of the Congress MLAs would indulge in cross voting, suffered a rude jolt when its MLA Shobha Rani Kushwah defying the BJP’s whip went to vote for Pramod Tiwari.

The Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP), a regional party with three MLAs had extended its support to Chandra, but eventually, rather than getting 30 additional votes from the BJP and three RLP votes, Chandra could get only 30 votes. Chandra left in a huff for Delhi even before the results could be declared after congratulating Gehlot.

As per rule, a voter had to show the ballot paper to the party’s agent to ensure that he or she voted for the party’s candidate. Shobha Rani after marking the ballot in favour of Pramod Tiwari showed the ballot to the BJP agent Rajendra Singh Rathor from a distance. Rathor was stunned to know that Shobha Rani cross-voted in favour of Pramod Tiwari. There was a murmur in the BJP camp. The agent of Subhash Chandra claimed that the vote of Shobha Rani should be rejected as Rathor as the poll agent had touched it. Chandra claimed that the vote of Shobha rani should be rejected and canceled, but the mandatory videography showed that Rathor did not touch the ballot paper. Hence Chandra’s claim for rejecting Shobha Rani’s vote was not entertained. But her vote paved the victory for Tiwari, the veteran leader of the Congress from Uttar Pradesh.

Later, Shobha Rani was suspended by the party and the BJP’s leader of Opposition served her a notice to explain her conduct within a week. It is now almost certain that Shobha Rani would be expelled from the party. Shobha Rani’s husband B L Kushwaha was an independent MLA and was convicted in a criminal case and his membership in the Vidhan sabha was terminated. His wife Shobha Rani contested the election and won from Dholpur.

The election commission also rejected the objection from the parties that the BJP MLA Kailash Meena showed his vote to a Congress agent. The allegation could not be proved through the CCTV camera.

After Shobha Rani cross-voted in favour of Congress, the BJP could sense its defeat and the party MLAs were seen demoralized.

The credit for the Congress victory goes to Gehlot, who braved the volatile situation created by the six BSP MLAs, who merged with the Congress and Independents, who were making high demands. Gehlot managed to get the two Bhartiya Tribals Party votes even after the party issued a whip to its two members to vote for Chandra, the Independent candidate. The two BTP MLAs who had pledged their support to the Congress eventually voted for the party.

In fact, the Congress polled 127 votes, but one vote of a senior Congress MLAs was rejected as this MLA rather than writing a number in favour of Mukul Wasnik by pen, just ticked against the name of Wasnik. Thus, his vote was rejected. The winning candidate needed 41 votes to win, but Randeep Surjewala got two more votes than required and Mukul Wasnik, one more than the required vote. Tiwari got exactly 41 votes.

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