Polling for the two Rajya Sabha seats from Haryana was underway here on Friday with Congress MLAs, who were lodged in a resort in Chattisgarh's Raipur due to fear of poaching, on their way to Chandigarh. The polling for the two seats will be held from 9 am to 4 pm and counting of votes will be taken up soon after, officials said. While the BJP with 40 MLAs in the 90-member Haryana Assembly has nine more than the 31 first preference votes required for a straight win, the contest has become keen for the second seat with the entry of media baron Kartikeya Sharma, an Independent. He has the backing of BJP-JJP combine, the Independents, and Gopal Kanda, lone MLA of the Haryana Lokhit Party.
The BJP has fielded former Minister Krishan Lal Panwar, while Ajay Maken, a former Union minister, is the Congress nominee. The Congress has 31 members in the state Assembly, just enough to help its candidate win a seat. Its prospects could be in jeopardy in case of cross-voting. Haryana Congress MLAs, who were lodged in a resort in Raipur reached Delhi on Thursday evening. The Congress had shifted its MLAs to Raipur a week ago fearing poaching of its legislators. In the morning they started their journey by road and are reaching here in a bus, sources said. The ruling BJP-JJP MLAs, who had remained lodged at a resort here since Wednesday, had started reaching here to cast their votes. On Thursday, lone Indian National Lok Dal MLA Abhay Singh Chautala declared his support to Kartikeya Sharma. Speaking to reporters in Delhi on Thursday evening, senior Congress leader Vivek Bansal, who is the party's Haryana affairs in-charge, exuded confidence that Maken will win comfortably. Congress leader Deepender Singh Hooda also said the party candidate will win comfortably. Senior party leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who had been in Delhi for the past few days, reached here on Thursday evening
Earlier, Congress leader Kuldeep Bishnoi, who is the MLA from Adampur in Hisar, did not go to Raipur as he was reportedly upset with the party for ignoring him in the recent reshuffle in its state unit. He had lobbied for the post of the state unit chief, which went to former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda loyalist Udai Bhan. On Wednesday, the BJP-JJP too had shifted their MLAs to a resort in Chandigarh. They were attending a "training session" in connection with the voting process, Haryana BJP chief O P Dhankar had said.Kartikeya Sharma is son of former Union Minister Venod Sharma, who had also remained a minister in the erstwhile Bhupinder Singh Hooda-led government.
Venod Sharma had later floated his own outfit Jan Chetna Party. The media baron's father-in-law Kuldeep Sharma is a senior Congress leader and a former speaker of the state Assembly. The votes will be marked by a special pen provided by the Election Commission. Each MLA after casting his vote will hand over the pen to the officer deputed by the poll body, Haryana Assembly Secretary and Returning Officer for the polls R K Nandal told reporters. Nandal said that Haryana's Chief Electoral Officer and one central observer, who is Manipur's Chief Electoral Officer, will be present to oversee the poll process. In the 90-member Haryana Assembly, the BJP has 40 MLAs while the Congress has 31. The JJP, which is an ally of the BJP, has 10 legislators while the Indian National Lok Dal and Haryana Lokhit Party have one each and seven are independents. Two Rajya Sabha seats from Haryana will fall vacant in August with the terms of media baron Subhash Chandra and BJP leader Dushyant Gautam expiring.