Who’s the traitor? After the declaration of the presidential poll results, Assam is counting the number of “gaddaars”. Chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Friday said that of the 22 opposition MLAs of the state who voted for National Democratic Alliance (NDA) nominee Droupadi Murmu defying their party lines, 15-16 are from the Congress.
Altogether 124 MLAs of the 126-member Assam legislative assembly exercised their franchise in the presidential polls on July 18, while two legislators from the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) were outside the country.
Compared to the NDA’s strength of 79 in the House, Murmu secured 104 votes, while joint opposition candidate Yashwant Sinha got 20. There are 44 opposition MLAs in the state assembly, where the Congress’s number is now 24 (three of its legislators were expelled for anti-party activities). The Badruddin Ajmal-led AIUDF has 27 MLAs, BPF has three (now sharing floor coordination with BJP in the assembly), CPI(M) has one, and another is an independent MLA.
Of the 22 “extra” votes that the NDA candidate received, “15 to 16 are from the Congress, three to four from the AIUDF, and the remaining may be from independent or other parties”, Sarma said in Delhi.
The chief minister had pointed to the cross-voting by opposition MLAs through a tweet. “Droupadi Murmu polled 104 votes compared to NDA’s original strength of 79 in the 126 member Assam Assembly. 2 absent. My heartfelt gratitude to the people of Assam for reposing their faith in the NDA’s Presidential candidate & wholeheartedly joining this historic moment,” he wrote.
AIUDF general secretary and MLA Karim Uddin Barbhuiya said Assam’s leader of opposition (LOP) Debabrata Saikia spearheaded the cross-voting of Congress MLAs for Murmu. Speaking to News18 on Friday, he alleged that Saikia met chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma along with over 20 Congress legislators on the presidential poll day on July 18 just after they cast their votes. Expressing resentment with the state Congress leadership, he lamented that the Sonia Gandhi-led party was fighting the AIUDF instead of the ruling BJP.
“After voting, Debabrata Saikia took 22-23 MLAs to the chief minister, had tea, engaged in banter, and discussed schemes. He welcomed him like he was his guru. This is in the public domain,” Barbhuiya added.
Condemning the Congress, he said, “Gaurav Gogoi is efficient. He is a good parliamentarian, has a good image, and is the son of former CM Tarun Gogoi. I don’t know why the AICC has put him there under lock and key. Congress should have fought with the BJP. But it is fighting with the AIUDF. AICC should give the charge of the state to Gaurav Gogoi.”
Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) president Bhupen Kumar Borah admitted that six MLAs of his party voted for the NDA’s nominee. Speaking to reporters, he said, “It’s very unfortunate that a few of our MLAs voted for the NDA candidate. We are going to examine the cross-voting and, definitely, we will take strong action against the betrayers.”
Debabrata Saikia too admitted this. “Yes, it’s very unfortunate for us. I think four or more Congress MLAs voted in favour of the NDA candidate. But we could not identify the cross-voters due to the confidential system of the presidential poll.”
BJP sources said around 125 MLAs from different assemblies cross-voted for Droupadi Murmu. 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 NDA candidate.
Around 22 MLAs in Assam and 20 in Madhya Pradesh 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 JMM had already announced support for her.
All MLAs from Andhra Pradesh, where the ruling YSR Congress, as well as the opposition TDP, had pledged support to Murmu, voted for her. On the other hand, Yashwant Sinha swept all votes from Kerala MLAs as the ruling Left and the opposition Congress had both supported him. Murmu also received all the votes from the Sikkim and Nagaland assemblies.
Murmu won by an overwhelming margin against Sinha, receiving over 64 per cent of valid votes cast by MPs and MLAs, comprising the Electoral College, to succeed Ram Nath Kovid to become the country’s 15th president.
With inputs from News18