Kolkata, Feb 7: West Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress bagged four of the five seats in the Rajya Sabha polls Friday, reaping the fruits of cross voting by opposition Congress and Left Front legislators amid allegations of horse-trading.
However, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee rubbished the opposition accusations.
Veteran Bollywood actor Mithun Chakraborty, celebrated painter Jogen Chowdhury, former MP K.D. Singh and journalist Ahmed Hasan Imran were elected on the Trinamool ticket, while Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) candidate Ritabrata Banerjee also made it to the upper house of parliament.
Journalist A.S. Malihabadi, who was in fray as an Independent candidate backed by the Congress and the Left Front, lost after five lawmakers cross-voted in favour of Trinamool. Three of them belonged to the Left Front, and two others to the Congress.
On the other hand, suspended Trinamool Congress member Sikha Mitra voted for Malihabai.
The Congress suspended both its rebel members – Sushil Roy and Himani Biswas – who voted for Ahmed Hasan Imran.
Ananta Deb Adhikary and Dasarath Tirkey of the Revolutionary Socialist Party and Forward Bloc’s Sunil Mondal also backed Imran.
All six legislators confirmed they had cross voted.
Soumitra Khan, who recently left the Congress to join the Trinamool, also voted for Imran.
While the victories of Trinamool’s Chakraborty, Chowdhury and Singh and CPI-M’s Banerjee were a foregone conclusion, a tough contest was on the cards for the fifth seat between Hasan and Malihabadi. The Left earlier said it would transfer its surplus votes to ensure Malihabadi’s victory.
However, results showed it had transferred all its first preference votes to Banerjee to ensure his smooth sailing.
“When it became clear to us that because of the defections Malihabadi will not win, we cast all our first preference votes for Banerjee, because otherwise his victory would have became uncertain in case some votes got cancelled,” said Leader of Opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra.
CPI-M member Narayan Mukherjee could not come for the polling due to indisposition.
The opposition hit out at the government.
Congress leader Manas Bhuniya said “the ruling party has indulged in rampant horse-trading”.
Slamming Trinamool, Left Front chairman Biman Bose said the party which labelled itself as a symbol of honesty”, has presided over the “criminalization of politics”.
Dismissing the allegations, Banerjee said her party would welcome members of opposition who had voted for her party in the Rajya Sabha polls.
“This (hose-trading) doesn’t happen in Bengal…TMC is the only party that is very transparent…we are the poorest of the poor party please remember. Bengal votes for ideology,” an upbeat Banerjee said after the results were announced.
She said the strength of the Trinamool has now gone up to 12 in the Rajya Sabha, and they would work for the state.
Congress legislators Roy and Biswas, who cross-voted, attacked their party saying they could not back a candidate jointly supported by the Congress and Left Front. “We have always fought against the CPI-M. We cannot vote with them.”
Condemning the two legislators, state Congress president Pradip Bhattacharya said the duo has been placed under suspension.
Mondal said he voted for the Trinamool to protest against the understanding between the Left and the Congress. “Why should I vote for a candidate who has the support of the Congress?”
He also denied allegations that monetary transactions were involved in his decision to back the Trinamool. “This is baseless. This only shows how low the Left has stooped.”
Tirkey, a two time minister during LF regime, claimed he wanted to back the chief minister who was “thinkling positively about the state’s development and was capable of ushering in progress”.