In the just concluded presidential election of India, Assam emerged as the state where highest number of Opposition MLAs cross voted for Droupadi Murmu, the NDA’s choice for the top Constitutional post in the country. Murmu, who is set to become the first tribal President, was elected on July 21, winning the support of 64.03 percent of the total vote value. Yashwant Sinha, who was the UPA’s choice, lost after three rounds of counting only.
Over 120 MLAs from across state assemblies cross-voted in support of president-elect Droupadi Murmu, defying their parties’ stated support to Opposition candidate Sinha. Of these, the highest tally was from Assam—22 Opposition MLAs voted for Murmu. The president-elect also got votes of 17 MPs from the Opposition camp.
On July 18, when the poll was held, India Today NE reported that several MLAs from Congress and the AIUDF cross voted in favour of Murmu. The report was proved accurate by the results declared on July 21.
The entire episode of cross voting was engineered by Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who was a member of the Congress before switching to BJP in 2015. He has a long history of ensuring such cross voting by Opposition MLAs even during Rajya Sabha polls. In the recently concluded polls to the upper house in June, all NDA candidates won even though they did not have requisite numbers. In 2010, Sarma, then a Congress minister, drove four BJP legislators into the Assembly on the day of polling for Rajya Sabha elections.
“Most Congress MLAs are our friends. They have full faith in the leadership of Chief Minister Sarma. Whenever needed, they help us,” a senior minister in Sarma cabinet told India Today NE.
While talking exclusively to India Today NE, Assam Pradesh Congress Committee President (APCC) Bhupen Borah admitted that some MLAs of his party voted in favour of the NDA candidate. “From the very beginning, we were certain that our Opposition-backed candidate Yashwant Sinha would get 26 votes from Congress, but unfortunately, he got only 20. We admit that six MLAs, did cross-vote. We will soon try to find those culprits and take necessary disciplinary action as per our party constitution,” Bora said.
Earlier, on the day of the poll, Senior Congress MLA Debabrata Saikia, while talking to India Today NE, denied crossvoting and expressed his confidence in every Congress legislator to vote for Sinha. AIUDF general secretary Aminul Islam had also claimed on behalf of all AIUDF legislators that they had voted for the UPA’s candidate Sinha.
The Presidential election results, where heavy crossvoting took place, is a clear indication of the rift amongst the members of the UPA.
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