New Delhi: Daggers have been drawn in the Haryana Congress over party candidate Ajay Maken’s loss to media baron Kartikeya Sharma in last month’s Rajya Sabha polls. While Maken has accused senior Congress leader and Tosham MLA Kiran Choudhry of casting an invalid vote that contributed to his defeat, the latter has shot back, saying that Maken has lost many elections and is “frustrated”.
Also wading into the controversy is former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda. Speaking to reporters Tuesday, he jumped to Maken’s defence.
“Maken said Kiran Choudhry had marked it instead of writing ‘1’ against the preference. It was ballot no.26, which had a tick mark and was later declared invalid. Maken reached his conclusion (of pinpointing Choudhry) after watching the video of [the person] who arrived at no. 26,” he said, adding that it was the duty of the Congress high command to take action in the case of an invalid vote.
Choudhry, considered a long-time Hooda detractor, and a former minister in the Haryana government, has dismissed Maken’s allegations as “baseless” and told ThePrint that he was part of a “conspiracy” against her.
“He seems to be frustrated about it. I don’t need his certificate to prove my loyalty to the Congress. My party leader, Sonia Gandhi, knows who I am and what I stand for. Why would I ever do anything against the Congress? The party’s loss is my loss,” she told ThePrint Tuesday.
Maken, general secretary of the All India Congress Committee, lost to Kartikeya Sharma, an independent candidate backed by the BJP-JJP combine, on 11 June. The Congress has 31 MLAs in the 90-member Haryana assembly, which would have been just enough to push Maken over the finish line.
However, things did not go according to plan — while MLA Kuldeep Bishnoi cross-voted, one vote was declared invalid.
The Congress was still expecting to win with 30 votes, senior party leaders told ThePrint Tuesday, but the invalid vote came as a major blow.
Since then, a section of leaders within the Haryana Congress has been blaming Choudhry for the rejected vote.
The loss came as an embarrassment to Hooda, too — it came less than two months after a Hooda aide, Udai Bhan, took over as Haryana Congress chief.
The development has once again brought to the fore fissures in the Haryana Congress. The Rajya Sabha elections came less than two years before assembly polls are due in the state.
In a related development, Maken moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court Monday challenging Sharma’s victory. In his petition, he questioned the validity of a vote cast by an MLA representing the ruling BJP-JJP combine.
Maken’s petition has nothing to do with Choudhry, at least two Congress leaders told ThePrint.
ThePrint sought Maken’s comment on the matter through phone calls and text messages, and also through other Delhi-based Congress leaders, but did not get a response. This report will be updated when he responds.
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Who said what
In a conversation with the media outside the court complex Monday, Maken reportedly said: “It was clear when Kiran Choudhry came out after casting her vote, she herself said that she had put a ‘tick mark’ against the nominee’s name… We had seen the ballot number on which the tick mark was made and checked its serial number, and therefore, there was no doubt that the rejected vote was Kiran Choudhry’s.”
Choudhry, the daughter-in-law of former Haryana chief minister Bansi Lal, told ThePrint that there was a “larger conspiracy” against her within the party and Maken seems to be “a pawn” in that.
“How is he so sure that the invalid vote was mine,” she asked. “He’s deliberately misinterpreting my comments after the Rajya Sabha polls. By ‘tick mark’ I simply meant that I went inside, I voted for the Congress candidate and I came out. I did not want to disclose too much to the media. It was said in common Haryanvi parlance.”
(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)
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