BJP Wins Rajya Sabha Poll In Himachal After Congress Cross-Voting

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The BJP has only 25 MLAs in the 68-member assembly.

In a stunning upset for the Congress, the BJP has managed to pull off a victory for its candidate in the lone Rajya Sabha seat in Himachal Pradesh despite having only 25 MLAs in the 68-member Assembly. The BJP’s victory was the result of cross-voting by Congress MLAs and a draw of lots that went in its favour. 

The loss could be much bigger than just a blow to the Congress’s prestige as it is likely to be followed by a no-confidence vote, endangering the party’s government in Himachal Pradesh – one of only three states that it rules on its own. Compounding the Congress’ pain will be the fact that the Lok Sabha elections are just weeks away.

Declaring the victory of the BJP candidate, Harsh Mahajan, Leader of the Opposition Jairam Thakur said in Hindi, “Despite having such a huge majority, the Congress has lost the Rajya Sabha election in Himachal Pradesh. I want to congratulate Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP President JP Nadda and (Home Minister) Amit Shah. We have pulled off a victory when our chances seemed very low.”

The Congress has 40 MLAs in the Assembly and its candidate, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, was expected to win comfortably. During the voting for the only Rajya Sabha seat for which elections were held on Tuesday, six Congress MLAs and three Independents supporting the government reportedly cast their ballots for the BJP.

Earlier in the day, Mr Thakur – who was also the Himachal chief minister until 2022, when the BJP lost to the Congress – had said that the Sukhu government had lost the majority in the Assembly. 

Sources have told NDTV that the BJP is likely to move a no-confidence motion on Thursday and their claims were bolstered when Mr Sukhu alleged during the counting of votes that six Congress MLAs had been whisked away to BJP-ruled Haryana. 

“The way 5-6 MLAs have been taken by a convoy of the Haryana Police and the CRPF… The MLAs’  families are trying to get in touch with them and the legislators should contact them. There is no need to worry. There is a government and an opposition in a democracy but the kind of hooliganism (‘gundagardi’) being done by the opposition will never be accepted by the people of Himachal,” the chief minister said. 

Cross-Voting, and A Little Bit Of Luck

Helped by six Congress MLAs and three Independents reportedly siding with its candidate, the BJP managed to secure 34 ballots for Mr Mahajan, reducing the votes for Mr Singhvi to the exact same number. The winner was then decided through a draw of lots, which went in Mr Mahajan’s favour.

Speaking after the results were declared, Mr Singhvi said in Hindi, “Any party fielding a candidate when it has just 25 MLAs and the government has the support of 43 sends out only one message – that they are shamelessly planning to do something that the law does not allow. And I am not talking about Mr Mahajan or this election alone, I am talking about the principle.”

“If you think that one person, or two or nine can suddenly switch ideologies, then I think all of us live in a fool’s paradise. This change is unfortunate for India, and especially Himachal Pradesh, where this culture did not exist. If this is New India, I would prefer the older version,” he added.

“Despite all their attempts, we naturally reached a figure of 34 each. This is probably the first time something like this has happened in India and it is unlikely to happen again. No votes were declared invalid and there were no second preference votes. The winner was decided by a draw of lots,” he said.

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