Cross-voting in prez poll, TMC deciding to abstain from vice-prez poll
New Delhi, July 22 (PTI): Chinks in the Opposition unity came to the fore again following cross-voting in several states in favour of Droupadi Murmu during the presidential election and the Trinamool Congress’ decision to abstain from the vice presidential election.
The Trinamool Congress (TMC), while announcing its decision, said it does not agree with the way the Opposition candidate was decided without keeping it in the loop. Leaders of Opposition parties, however, contended that they were in touch with Mamata Banerjee on the issue.
Terming the TMC’s decision “disappointing”, the Opposition’s candidate for the vice presidential election Margaret Alva said this is not the time for “whataboutery, ego or anger”.
Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge said he will reach out to Banerjee on the issue and try to convince her to support Alva’s candidature.
According to sources, Congress president Sonia Gandhi had spoken to Mamata Banerjee on the night of July 15 where the TMC supremo is learnt to have given no indication that she would not support the joint opposition candidate.
Later, Gandhi again tried to establish contact with her on July 16 night after the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) declared then West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankar as its vice presidential candidate, but Banerjee could not be reached, sources said.
They also said that Sharad Pawar also tried to reach out to Banerjee on July 17 evening after Margaret Alva’s name was announced but was unable to do so.
Pawar told reporters after the meeting of 17 opposition parties that he was in touch with Banerjee as well as Arvind Kejriwal, claiming “both are on board” with the Opposition.
CPI’s D Raja said even during the meeting of opposition leaders, Pawar contacted Banerjee but was told that she is in an official online meeting.
He said Congress leader Jairam Ramesh also spoke to TMC MPs and it was understood that the ruling party in West Bengal would come in support of joint opposition candidate Margaret Alva.
“This (TMC’s decision) definitely shows or exposes cracks in the Opposition unity. But it is now for Mamata Banerjee to answer what kind of message she is giving out. She has to justify her political plank and why she is going away from Opposition,” Raja said.
A sizeable number of MLAs cross-voted in support of President-elect Droupadi Murmu, defying their parties’ stated support for Opposition candidate Yashwant Sinha, sources have said.
BJP sources said around 125 MLAs cross-voted in Murmu’s support. The counting of votes also suggests that Murmu was the beneficiary of cross-voting from 17 MPs.
Assam, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh assemblies witnessed a significant number of Opposition MLAs voting for the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance’s candidate.
Around 22 MLAs in Assam and 20 in Madhya Pradesh assemblies are likely to have cross-voted. Six opposition MLAs each from Bihar and Chhattisgarh, four from Goa and 10 from Gujarat may also have voted for Murmu.
Murmu’s tribal background appeared to have drawn support from Opposition MLAs from Jharkhand too, where the ruling Jharkhand Mukti Morcha had already announced support for her.
Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has claimed that of the 22 opposition MLAs of the state who voted for Droupadi Murmu in the presidential election defying their party line, 15-16 are from the Congress.
Of the 22 “extra” votes that the NDA candidate received, “15 to 16 are from the Congress and the remaining may be from the AIUDF or Independent”, Sarma said.
Assam state Congress president Bhupen Bora admitted that there was cross-voting in the presidential poll and claimed that at least six MLAs from his party voted in favour of Murmu, defying its stated support for the opposition candidate.
Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant has also claimed that three state legislators from the Opposition side cross-voted in favour of the NDA’s presidential candidate Droupadi Murmu.
Leader of Opposition in West Bengal assembly Suvendu Adhikari on Friday claimed that several TMC MLAs and MPs voted in favour of President-elect Droupadi Murmu.
Of the 291 West Bengal MLAs who voted in the presidential poll, 216 were cast in favour of opposition presidential nominee Yashwant Sinha, while 71 votes were cast in favour of Murmu. Four votes were declared invalid.