LUCKNOW: Amid speculation of cross-voting by some of the Samajwadi Party MLAs, Uttar Pradesh registered an emphatic turnout of lawmakers to vote in the presidential elections in which NDA supported candidate Droupadi Murmu is up against opposition’s nominee Yashwant Sinha.
Counting of votes and declaration of result will be on July 21.
Reports of cross-voting by SP MLAs started doing the rounds even as party MLA and SP chief Akhilesh Yadav’s estranged uncle Shivpal Yadav said that a "true Samajwadi" would not vote for Sinha who once called party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav an "ISI agent". Shivpal who turned up at UP Vidhan Bhawan’s Tilak Hall to cast his vote, had already announced that he would vote for Murmu.
Soon, photographs of SP’s Bhojipura MLA Sharjeel Islam with Shivpal appeared, stoking speculation about a few more SP MLAs jumping ship. Notably, voting for the presidential election is being done through secret ballot and political parties cannot issue whip to its members.
UP CM Yogi Adityanath was the first legislator to exercise his franchise followed by parliamentary affairs minister Suresh Khanna on Monday morning. Out of 403 MLAs in UP, 396 voted in UP. SBSP’s Abbas Ansari and SP’s Nahid Hasan could not vote because of criminal cases pending against them. Five MLAs voted outside UP. While BJP’s Neel Ratan Patel voted in Kerala, Mukesh Chaudhary (Nakur), Pradeep Singh (Sadabad), Zila-Ul-Rehman (Kundarki) and Braj Bhushan Rajput (Charkhari) voted in Delhi.
Even as the BJP and its ally enjoy an overwhelming majority in the UP assembly, leader of opposition and SP president Akhilesh Yadav exuded his bit of confidence saying that his party MLAs remained united to vote in favour of Sinha. "It is a contest to save democracy. The BJP is trying to spoil the atmosphere," he said, shrugging off speculation about cross-voting by SP legislators as "mere rumours". Asked about Shivpal, Akhilesh smilingly said, "Jo kahin aur jana chahte hain unko roka nahi ja sakta (Those who wanted to go elsewhere cannot be stopped)."
SP ally and SBSP chief Om Prakash Rajbhar was seen openly moving around with deputy CM Brajesh Pathak. "Dilli ka rasta UP se hokar jata hai...humari koshish hai ki Murmu ji ko poora samarthan prapt ho...(The road to Delhi goes through UP. We aspire to lend our full support to Murmu)," he said. Rajbhar, whose party has six MLAs, had announced his support for Murmu after his meetings with Union home minister Amit Shah and CM Yogi. Rajbhar has been flexing muscles after the alliance lost bypolls in Azamgarh.
Likewise, Kunda MLA Raja Bhaiyya, whose party Jansatta Dal (Loktantrik) has two MLAs, came in open support of Murmu, saying that his party’s ideology does not resonate with Yashwant Sinha’s.
Just before polling for the presidential elections started around 10 am, the area around Vidhan Bhawan was cordoned off by the police. Heavy barricades were put up on the roads leading to state assembly, restricting vehicular movement in Hazratganj.
Most of the legislators voted in the first half of the day. Even as Vidhan Sabha officials executed a seamless voting process, the legislators quietly lined up outside the Tilak Hall. Voting ended at 5 pm.