RS polls: Jethmalani, Mallya`s fate to be decided Thursday

A keen fight is on the cards in Rajasthan and Karnataka amid reports of division among BJP MLAs over the candidature of legal luminary Ram Jethmalani and liqour baron Vijay Mallya.

Updated: Jun 16, 2010, 22:10 PM IST

New Delhi: A keen fight is on the cards in
Rajasthan and Karnataka amid reports of division among BJP
MLAs over the candidature of legal luminary Ram Jethmalani and
liqour baron Vijay Mallya as the stage is set for elections to
18 Rajya Sabha seats in five seats tomorrow.

Union Minister Anand Sharma, LJP supremo Ram Vilas
Paswan, senior Congress Oscar Fernandes and former BJP chief M
Venkaiah Naidu are among the candidates whose fate will be
decided in tomorrow`s biennial polls.

The BJP is getting jitters in Rajasthan where a section
of its 79 MLAs are unhappy over the candidature of Jethmalani
for his having defended Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru
and the party has herded its legislators in a hotel to avert

The decision of CPI(M) to abstain from voting in
Rajasthan seems to have improved the chances of two BJP
candidates, who also include V P Singh, as an aspirant would
now require 40 votes instead of earlier 41 to sail through.

Under the circumstances, the BJP with its 79 members and
one JD (U) MLA would not require vote from outside if all of
them vote for Jethmalani and Singh. Besides, keeping its MLAs
in the hotel, BJP has also issued a whip.

The ruling Congress with its strength of 102 MLAs in the
Rajasthan Assembly has already ensured the victory of Anand
Sharma, Commerce and Industry Minister, and Ashq Ali Tak and
the party is keen to see industrialist-cum-politician Santosh
Bagrodia sail through. Bagrodia, however, needs the support
of independents and cross-voting by BJP MLAs.

In Karnataka, BJP is divided on whether to support
Mallya who is bidding for a second term as an independent
supported by 27-member JD-S legislature group and also an
independent Varthur Prakash and is banking on the backing of
the ruling party`s surplus votes.

Mallya needs 45 first preference votes for victory.

It remains to be seen if the BJP Legislature Party
opts for transferring second preference votes to Mallya in the
wake of opposition by a section to allot him surplus first
preference votes.

On the other hand, the 74-member Congress Legislature
party, which met under its leader Siddaramaiah, resolved to
allot 45 first preference votes to Oscar Fernandes and the
remaining 29 to its other candidate T V Maruthi who would
also be getting the second preference votes of his party MLAs.

The election will be a smooth affair for Naidu, re-nominated
by BJP for the third successive term from Karnataka, Ayanur
Manjunath and Oscar Fernandes.

The fate of Paswan hangs on which way the Congress,
which has 10 members, votes tomorrow but his chances may have
been helped by CPI(M)`s decision to abstain from voting and
the CPI-ML`s indication to do the same.

While the RJD-LJP combine depends on Congress and
three Left parties (9 MLAs) to see its two candidates through
as it has eight votes less than required, the absence of CPI-M
and CPI-ML could lower the bar for romping home.

Besides, the CPI has issued a whip to its three MLAs
to support Paswan. The CPI(ML), having five MLAs, has imposed
a condition on the LJP supremo to secure its support -- Paswan
has to make a statement in favour of land reforms.

The entry of Bangalore-based businessman B G Uday as
the sixth candidate for five Rajya Sabha seats has fuelled
speculation of horse-trading and opened up the possibility of
queering the pitch for the official RJD candidate Ramkripal

In Orissa, three BJD contestants and Independent Tara
Ranjan Patnaik, backed by both the Congress and the BJP, are
vying for three Upper House berths from the state.

As last ditch efforts to woo legislators gained pace,
the ruling BJD, fearing poaching by the Opposition, has lodged
its legislators in hotels in Puri.

Biennial elections will held for five Rajya Sabha seats
in Bihar, four each in Rajasthan and Karnataka, three in
Orissa and two in Jharkhand tomorrow.

On June 10, Union Minister Ambika Soni, Gandhi family
loyalist Satish Sharma, BJP leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and
senior journalist Chandan Mitra were among 32 candidates
elected unopposed to the Rajya Sabha.

Earlier, Union Minister of State for Environment and
Forests Jairam Ramesh and five others were elected uncontested
to Rajya Sabha from Andhra Pradesh.