Mystery continues to surround what happened in the Haryana Assembly on June 11 when votes cast by 14 Congress MLAs for the Rajya Sabha election were declared invalid, leading to the victory of the BJP-backed candidate.
The votes of 12 of these MLAs were declared invalid because they had marked their choices with an ink different the one authorised by the Election Commission through the Vidhan Sabha secretariat.
Possibly, it was the first time ever that votes in bulk were declared invalid because of this reason.
Elections for the Rajya Sabha are held under an "open vote" system in which voters mark the ballot paper with a marker pen whose nib must be 1mm in thickness and which uses violet ink.
Amidst claims and counter-claims, the question that continues to be asked is: who changed the pen that had the approved violet ink with one that had blue?
Congress leaders claim it was done by two BJP MLAs as part of a well-planned conspiracy. They assert that one of these MLAs swapped the pens after casting his vote. He was followed by the 12 Congress MLAs. Then another MLA from the ruling party, who voted after the bunch of Congress MLAs, restored the original pen at the polling booth.
The BJP, however, asserts that the Congress MLAs had deliberately used the wrong pen because they were unhappy with the decision of the party high command with the choice of the candidate. These MLAs, all loyalists of former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, did not want to be seen voting alongside their political rivals, the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), it was alleged.
The result was that the BJP-backed candidate, media mogul Subhash Chandra, was declared elected by defeating lawyer RK Anand, who was backed by the Congress and INLD.
There is no doubt that the entire operation was meticulously planned and executed.
|The BJP-backed candidate, media mogul Subhash Chandra, was declared elected.|
The mystery may have been resolved by now if common MLAs were involved. However, since those involved were "honourable", the police have been hesitant to touch the case despite an FIR being lodged by Anand. The Haryana Assembly staff, who conducted the election, too are cagey about the incident while the Election Commission, under whose aegis the entire election was conducted, has so far maintained a studied silence.
Hooda, who had made his unhappiness clear about backing a candidate who was also backed by the INLD, had also publicly declared that he would leave his ballot paper blank - which he did.
Another Congress stalwart Randeep Singh Surjewala deliberately disqualified himself from voting by openly showing it to a colleague which cannot be done. The votes cast by 12 other Congress MLAs one after another were declared invalid on the ground of marking their choices with the wrong ink.
The Congress has alleged that the personal staff of the BJP-supported candidate were repeatedly in touch with the Vidhan Sabha staff in the days prior to the election and had sought a detailed procedure for the voting process.
Anand, who has also complained to the Election Commission, has pointed out that BJP MLA Aseem Goel who voted before the 12 Congress MLAs, spent a considerably long time inside the polling booth. He also alleged that an independent MLA supporting the BJP, Jai Parkash, had restored the original pen.
There is yet another twist to the tale: a few hours before the 12 invalid votes were cast, the Congress election agent Surjewala, whose own vote was declared invalid, had written to the returning officer for rejecting all those votes cast by "unauthorised pen".
Was he aware that such a pen would be used? If so, why did he not warn his party legislators?
In his defence, Surjewala said that his letter and invalid votes were not connected as he had written the letter earlier in the day while the pens were switched in the afternoon. The BJP-backed candidate, Chandra, on the other hand, alleged that Surjewala was behind the invalid votes being cast as a result of rivalries within the Congress.
Following Anand's complaint, the Election Commission has assured an inquiry. However, the question that needs to be answered is, who replaced the marker pen with violet ink with one that had blue ink? Were those BJP MLAs who voted before and after the Congress MLAs, or the first and the 12th Congress MLA?