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BJP snatches RS wins in UP, HP; Himachal CM in trouble

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NEW DELHI: BJP on Tuesday sprung yet another surprise by snatching two Rajya Sabha seats, one each in Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh, by winning over MLAs belonging to Congress and Samajwadi Party and their allies.
Its candidates, Harsh Mahajan in Himachal and Sanjay Seth in

UP

, stunned favourites, noted lawyer Abhishek Singhvi and former bureaucrat Alok Ranjan, of Congress and SP respectively, by poaching support from rival camps, taking advantage of the smug ineptness of rivals. The two ambushes dealt another psychological blow to the opposition camp in the lead-up to LS polls, while pushing Congress’s govt in Himachal into the throes of a life-threatening crisis three days before the state budget is to be presented.
The twin successes more than masked the embarrassment BJP suffered in Karnataka where one of its MLAs, S T Somashekar voted for Congress’ Ajay Maken at the expense of the nominee of its ally JD(S). JD(S) could take solace from its success in protecting its flock of 19.

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SP cross-voting helps MSY loyalist who joined BJP win
In Uttar Pradesh, Seth, a loyalist of SP founder late Mulayam Singh Yadav who crossed over to BJP, romped home comfortably thanks to seven SP MLAs who voted for him and one who assisted him indirectly by abstaining. Uma Shankar Singh, lone BSP member, also supported Seth, contributing to the defeat of Alok Ranjan who had appeared comfortably placed until BJP’s last-minute surprise decision to contest the eighth seat: one more than what it had already bagged on its own strength. SP chief whip Manoj Kumar Pandey had resigned before the poll, signalling large-scale desertions.

In Himachal, BJP, with 25 MLAs, stunned a numerically superior Congress, which besides its own contingent of 40, had three Independents backing it. Mahajan tied with Singhvi 34-34 in a nailbiter in the 68-strong House. A three-term Congress MLA whose father served as speaker, Mahajan came up trumps after a draw of lots where the apparent loser is awarded the contest.

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Six Congress MLAs voted for Mahajan. Congress’s failure to hold any of the Independents despite being in office spoke as much to BJP’s appetite for a win as the opposition party’s failure to manage contradictions and the reluctance of its leadership to trim its style to its depleted strength. The choice of Singhvi, who had earlier been elected from Rajasthan and West Bengal, did not go down well with a section of party MLAs, making them easy pickings for BJP which benefited from Mahajan’s deep roots in Congress. It was in this context that Karnataka deputy chief minister D K Shivakumar’s social media post thanking the leadership for fielding only local candidates was seen by many as a reminder of the need for the leadership to defer to state capitals.
Added to this, the dissatisfaction with CM Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu was a big help. The CM appeared to be at risk, with his opponents set to demand his replacement even as BJP signalled it could press home the advantage to challenge the Congress govt for a trial of strength. BJP leader and former CM Jai Ram Thakur demanded Sukhu’s resignation, claiming that Congress had been reduced to a minority following its defeat in the Rajya Sabha polls.

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