Rajya Sabha elections: Polling underway, jolt for SP after chief whip quits

Akhilesh Yadav said those looking for a "profit" in the situation would leave

Untitled design - 1 Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adithyanath and Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah after casting their votes | PTI

The polling for Rajya Sabha elections began on Tuesday morning across three states, including Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh. The polls are being conducted amid fears of cross-voting in Uttar Pradesh, where Samajwadi Party (SP) received a shocker after chief whip and MLA Manoj Kumar Pandey quit the party on Tuesday morning.

Exposing the chink in SP's armour, eight MLAs of the party had stayed away and skipped a meeting called by Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav at his residence on Monday to brief party legislators about the voting process.

Yadav, who arrived at Assembly's Tilak Hall to cast his vote, reacted to the potential cross-voting scenario, stating those who were looking for a "profit" in this situation would leave.

The SP chief also took potshots at the BJP, stating that the BJP will adopt any means necessary to win elections. "Those who put spikes in someone else's path or dig holes for others will pay the price themselves."

"You have seen what happened in Chandigarh in front of CCTV cameras. I thank the Supreme Court, which saved the Constitution. The BJP can adopt all tricks to win elections. It must have given assurance (to some MLAs) of some profit... BJP will do anything to win," Yadav said.

SP MLAs Rakesh Pratap Singh, Abhay Singh and Rakesh Pandey, who were among the eight to skip Yadav's Monday night meeting, arrived in the same vehicle. "We will cast our votes as per our inner voices," Rakesh Pratap Singh said. Asked if 'Jai Sri Ram' will prevail, he replied, "Ram is everywhere..."

The ruling BJP and the principal opposition SP have the numbers in the Assembly to send seven and three members respectively unopposed to the Rajya Sabha, but with the BJP fielding its eighth candidate, a keen contest is on the cards in one of the seats. 

However, in Karnataka, the prospects of Congress looked bright with the party claiming it could win support from the rival camp. Of the four others, the  Congress party is confident of winning three seats. The Congress camp is also hopeful about the fourth one - G Janardhana Reddy of Kalyana Rajya Pragathi Paksha who met Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Monday. Reddy, a mining baron, is a former BJP minister. 

"Besides, we may get three votes from the rival camp," a top Congress source told PTI.

The BJP has fielded Narayana Bhandage, besides JD(S) candidate D Kupendra Reddy as the NDA candidate which has made the election interesting. All parties have issued whips to the MLAs, who are the voters in Tuesday's poll, amid apprehensions of cross-voting.

In Himachal Pradesh, voting began for one seat and saw all MLAs voting before afternoon.  Independent MLA from Hamipur Ashish was the first to cast his vote while Congress MLA from Chintpurni Sudershan Babloo cast the last vote.

Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu after casting his vote said the MLAs have voted as per the ideology of the party. "We have 40 MLAs in the Vidhan Sabha and unless MLAs are bought off, we will get all the votes," he said. 

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