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BJP's Panwar, Independent candidate elected from Hry; Ajay Maken loses

Chandigarh/ Mumbai: The ruling BJP's strength in the crucial Upper House of Parliament has fallen from the current 95 to 92 while the number of Congress members has gone up slightly from 29 to 31 after results of the just-concluded Rajya Sabha elections.

In the biennial elections to the Council of States that witnessed a keen contest in four states of Rajasthan, Haryana, Karnataka and Maharashtra on Friday, the BJP won 22 of the 57 vacancies while the Congress won nine seats.

From among the 57 retiring members, the BJP had 25 of its members and the Congress had seven who will retire by next month and new ones will replace them.

In a jolt to the Congress, the BJP's Krishan Lal Panwar and the saffron party-backed Independent candidate Kartikeya Sharma were declared elected for the two Rajya Sabha seats from Haryana, after a high drama over allegations of violations of polling rules that delayed the counting by more than seven hours.

The counting of votes began past midnight and the results were announced after 2 am on Saturday.

According to Election Commission officials, Congress candidate Ajay Maken did not get enough votes. The party said one of its MLAs cross-voted while the vote of an MLA was declared invalid.

Returning Officer R K Nandal said Panwar got 36 votes, while Sharma got 23 first preference votes and 6.6 transferred from the BJP, taking his tally to 29.6. It was a photo-finish as Maken got 29 votes, but lost on account of no second preference votes.

While the value of votes polled by the BJP was 3,600, securing the first seat for Panwar, Sharma won the second seat with a vote value of 2,960, including 660 that got transferred from the BJP candidate as second preference votes. The Congress' value of votes was 2,900.

Congress MLA and the party's authorised polling agent BB Batra said while the vote of a party MLA was declared invalid, MLA Kuldeep Bishnoi cross-voted for Sharma, a media baron who had entered the poll fray as an Independent candidate supported by the BJP and its ally JJP.

The Congress, later, cracked the whip and expelled Bishnoi from all party positions. The Haryana Congress has alleged that Bishnoi, an MLA from the Adampur constituency in Hisar, did not vote for party candidate Ajay Maken and cross-voted in favour of the Independent candidate.

The Congress had 31 MLA and needed as many votes to win the Rajya Sabha seat from Haryana, but one of its legislators cross-voted and another's vote was cancelled.

"The Congress president has expelled Kuldeep Bishnoi from all his present party positions, including the post of special invitee of the Congress Working Committee, with immediate effect," a statement from AICC general secretary K C Venugopal said.

The results are also a setback for former Congress chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda as the party had recently replaced Kumari Selja as its state unit chief with his loyalist Udai Bhan.

Eighty-nine of a total of 90 MLAs in Haryana had cast their votes while Independent MLA Balraj Kundu had abstained.

The BJP with 40 MLAs had nine more than the 31 first preference votes required for a straight win. The Congress has 31 MLAs.

Independent MLA Kundu, who has been vocal against the BJP-led government on several issues, remained firm in his decision to abstain.

Meanwhile, Maharashtra's ruling alliance suffered a massive setback with the BJP winning a third seat in the state in straight fight against the Shiv Sena. With this, the state's numbers in the six Rajya Sabha seats in the state are split down the middle with the BJP and the alliance winning three seats each — an outcome that is expected to influence the coming MLC and civic elections in the state.

The BJP's Dhananjay Mahadik beat Sena's Sanjay Pawar on the sixth seat, the results of which came close to dawn on Saturday. The results showed an unexpected 10 votes in favour of the BJP. A candidate needed 41 votes for victory.

The other winners were the BJP's Piyush Goyal and Anil Bonde, Congress' Imran Pratapgarhi, NCP's Praful Patel and Sena's Sanjay Raut. Both Piyush Goyal and Anil Bonde got 48 votes.

"Elections are contested not just for the fight, but the victory. Jai Maharashtra," tweeted the BJP's Devendra Fadnavis, whose refusal to have consensus candidates for the Rajya Sabha led to elections in the state after 23 years.

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