BJD expects a miracle in Prez poll

Bhubaneswar: First to back PA Sangma, a tribal and minority leader for the Presidential contest, the ruling BJD in the state on Thursday expected a miracle in his favour as polling for the top post ended at Assembly here. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, Assembly Speaker Pradip Kumar Amat and Leader of Opposition Bhupinder Singh of Congress were among the 145 legislators who cast their votes while only two MLAs did not exercise their franchise.

An ailing tribal Congress legislator Basudev Majhi from Kotapad in Koraput district, who was taken in a stretcher to the assembly premises, could not vote as he was not in a condition to do so as presiding officer did not allow someone else to vote on his behalf. The lone CPI member Adikanda Sethi, however, refrained from voting as decided by his party earlier. The BJD-backed Independent Rajya Sabha MP A V Swamy was the lone member of Parliament who cast his vote at the assembly here.

Anjali Behera, Sarada Nayak and Sanjiv Sahu (the trio was recently dropped from the Naveen ministry after the May 29 coup bid) and also two suspended MLAs voted. "I have voted for Sangma as per the decision of the party," said Anjali Behera adding that she was hopeful of the tribal leader`s victory. Though all the 108-BJD MLAs claimed that they voted in favour of Sangma and claimed no cross voting by the party legislators.

Asked whether Sangma could win, BJD vice-president and former minister A U Singhdeo said: "We expect miracle. As long as God is there, miracle is possible. Many people have voted according to their conscience." "As you know, the BJD was the first to name `adivasi` leader Sangmaji as its candidate on May 17. An adivasi candidate was in the fray for the country`s highest post for the first time since Independence," said the Chief Minister adding party MPs have also cast their vote in Parliament.

The vote of two ruling BJD legislators, however, turned controversial after they allegedly displayed the ballot papers after casting their votes. Suspended BJD MLA Prabhat Biswal`s vote was rejected for allegedly showing the ballot paper after voting. The vote of Biswal was rejected by Presiding Officer Amiya Kumar Sarangi.

Biswal`s vote was rejected on the ground that his ballot paper was shown to the presiding officer after the legislator from Cuttack-Chowdwar had cast his vote, Sarangi said adding that as per rules one cannot show the ballot paper before dropping it in the box. Biswal, however, claimed that the ballot paper needed to be folded four times before being dropped in the box while he had folded it twice and would have completed the process before putting it in the box.

The opposition Congress lodged a written complaint before the returning officer alleging that Pranab Prakash Das, a BJD MLA from Jajpur also showed his ballot paper after marking. "We demand rejection of Das`s vote as he violated the guidelines set by the Election Commission of India," said Congress Chief Whip Prasad Harichandan. While 26 of the Congress`s 27 MLAs cast their votes, all the six BJP members and five Independent MLAs also participated in the votes here.