Aam Aadmi Party’s H S Phoolka was the only MLA in the 117-member Punjab Assembly not to cast his vote for the presidential election today while in Haryana all the 90 legislators exercised their franchise. Phoolka, MLA from Dakha in Punjab, abstained from voting as he had already declared that he would not vote for Congress-led opposition presidential candidate Meira Kumar since he was fighting cases of 1984 anti-Sikh riots. The AAP, which has 20 MLAs in Punjab, has already announced its support to Kumar, a former Speaker of the Lok Sabha, who is pitted against ruling NDA’s Ram Nath Kovind for the country’s top constitutional post. Out of the total 117 members in the Punjab Assembly, 116 cast their votes, election officials said.
The Congress, which stormed to power in Punjab in March after a gap of 10 years, has 77 MLAs in the Assembly, while the SAD-BJP coalition has 18 MLAs (15 of Shiromani Akali Dal and three of BJP). AAP’s ally, the Lok Insaaf Party (LIP), has two MLAs. Among the Lok Sabha members from Punjab, the Congress has four and the SAD has three. The BJP had two but recently, its Gurdaspur MP Vinod Khanna passed away. The AAP has four Lok Sabha members from Punjab, of whom two have been suspended by the party. In the Rajya Sabha, the Congress and the SAD have three members each from Punjab, while the BJP has a lone member from the state in the Upper House of Parliament. In Haryana, all the 90 MLAs cast their votes, the election officials said. In the Haryana Assembly, the ruling BJP enjoys a majority with 47 MLAs and the support of five Independents, while the Congress has 17 MLAs.
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INLD, the principal opposition, has 19 members, while the SAD and the BSP have one MLA each. Among the Lok Sabha MPs from Haryana, the BJP has seven, the INLD two and the Congress one. In the Rajya Sabha, the BJP has one member out of the five from the state. Media baron Subhash Chandra, an Independent member, was elected to the Upper House last year with the saffron party’s support. The Congress has two Rajya Sabha members from Haryana, while the INLD has one. Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar and senior Akali leader Parkash Singh Badal were among those who cast their votes.
Former Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, former Haryana Chief Minister and senior Congress leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Congress Legislature Party leader Kiran Choudhary, senior Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala, INLD’s senior leader and MLA Abhay Chautala also exercised their franchise. Besides, AAP’s senior leaders Sukhpal Khaira and Aman Arora and Lok Insaaf Party’s two legislators Balwinder Bains and Simarjit Singh Bains also cast their votes in the Punjab Assembly. Special pens were provided by the Election Commission for the lawmakers to cast their votes on ballot papers both in Haryana and Punjab Assembly complexes.
AAP’s ally the Lok Insaaf Party had earlier announced its support to Kovind while INLD also came out in support of NDA nominee. AICC-appointed observer, former Union Minister RPN Singh, was also present. Talking to reporters after casting his vote, Khattar said he was certain that the NDA nominee would be victorious. Parkash Singh Badal said his party is supporting the NDA nominee Ram Nath Kovind. Former Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda said when people give votes as per their conscience, then they will vote for Meira Kumar. AAP MLA Sukhpal Khaira said that the party had decided to support Meira Kumar in the Presidential polls. “Therefore they voted for Meira Kumar,” said Khaira.
Meanwhile, SAD MLA and former Punjab finance minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa sought another ballot paper after special pen accidentally fell off from his hands while exercising his franchise, leaving some mark on the paper.
“Some mark was left on the ballot paper when pen slipped out of Dhindsa’s hands. He requested for another ballot paper, fearing his vote may be declared invalid,” SAD spokesperson Daljit Singh Cheema said while dismissing suggestions that he initially cast his vote for Meira Kumar. However, his request for another ballot paper was rejected by the elections authorities, Cheema said. “He voted for NDA candidate Ram Nath Kovind,” said Cheema.
Punjab cabinet minister Brahim Mohindra, who was a polling agent, charged LIP’s Simarjit Bains with breaching the secrecy of vote by showing his ballot, the claim which was denied by the legislator. Mohindra demanded that Bains vote be cancelled.
Meanwhile, Haryana Congress president Ashok Tanwar shot off a letter to the Election Commission, alleging that he and AICC observer Charan Das Mahant, who is also a former Union Minister, were not allowed to enter Haryana Assembly premises today.”In the past they used to allow to sit in the conference room to meet MLAs..Today, in other states, concerned State Election Commissions allowed PCC members and AICC observers to be present in assembly premises, but not here,” he wrote. However, Haryana Assembly Speaker Kanwar Pal told reporters here that both were disallowed as they had not sought permission, which they should have.”Therefore they (PCC chief and AICC observer) were not allowed entry inside by the officials on duty,” the Speaker said.