As the stage is set for Rajya Sabha polls for four seats from Karnataka on Friday, suspense continues over the outcome of the fourth seat, to which all three political parties are contenders, despite none of them having adequate number of votes to win it.
The ruling BJP appeared confident of winning the three seats it is contesting in, and made final efforts to ensure all its votes are intact and get cast validly, by holding a mock voting exercise and a dinner meeting for legislators, hosted by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, one of the candidates.
An interesting turn of events took place in the opposition camp, as top leaders of Congress and JD(S) tried to reach out to MLAs of each other, with talks between them to forge some kind of a formal understanding reaching a deadlock, as both parties firmly stuck to their stand.
JD(S) leader H D Kumaraswamy had made an offer to trade second preference votes with the Congress and to ”start afresh” by forgetting the past between the the two political outfits, but the grand old party made it clear to the regional party that it was now time for it to return the favour, pointing out that former PM H D Deve Gowda got election to RS last time with its support in June 2020.
JD(S) has also decided to shift all its MLAs to a hotel or resort by this evening, aimed at ensuring that its numbers are intact and cross-voting doesn’t take place.
Six candidates are in the fray in the Rajya Sabha elections for four seats from Karnataka, necessitating a tight 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.
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.
A day ahead of the polls, Congress Legislature Party leader Siddaramaiah on Thursday wrote an open letter to JD(S) MLAs requesting them to cast their ”conscience vote” in favour of his party’s second candidate Khan, stating that his win will be a victory of ”secular ideology” followed by both parties.
Interestingly, in the letter, Siddaramaiah has repeatedly referred to JD(S), the party from which he was expelled from in 2005 and that he often called ‘B-team of BJP’ during previous assembly polls, as a ”secular party”.
Siddaramaiah along with state Congress Chief D K Shivakumar held a meeting with senior leaders of the party to discuss their strategy.
Earlier in the day Kumaraswamy strongly urged the Congress to support his party candidate — Reddy — to strengthen ”secular forces”.
Later in the day hitting out at Siddaramaiah for his letter to JD(S) MLAs, he said, ”He should be ashamed, he tried to defeat our MLA candidates in the last assembly elections by calling JD(S) B-team of BJP, today with what morality he is writing a letter to our MLAs? Are we secular today?” Instead of writing letter to MLAs now, if Siddaramaiah had discussed with JD(S) leaders before filing nominations such complications would not have arisen, he said.
”He has written seeking support for minority candidates, then why didn’t Congress make Mansoor Ali Khan its first candidate instead of Jairam Ramesh.” Even if Congress try to engineer cross voting, they cannot win second seat, and their only achievement will be to help BJP win by defeating JD(S), Kumaraswamy said.
”Siddaramaiah’s aim is to defeat and finish off JD(S) at the cost of his own party candidate….I’m confident about our MLAs, we are together. We have also reached out to four of our MLAs who are disgruntled.”
He also said that amid Congress’ claims of JD(S) MLAs cross-voting in its favour, to send out a message of unity all our MLAs have decided to stay put together at a place by this evening.
On its part the BJP leaders were closeted with Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai to discuss its strategy for polls tomorrow and keeping the flock together.
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.
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.