A keen contest is on the cards in Rajasthan amid reports of division among BJP MLAs over the candidature of legal luminary Ram Jethmalani but liquor baron Vijay Mallya appears set to sail through as the stage is set for elections to 18 Rajya Sabha seats in five states tomorrow.
Union minister Anand Sharma, LJP supremo Ram Vilas Paswan, senior Congress leader 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 poaching.
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 where four seats are up for grabs, Mallya is all set to win one of them with the support of ruling BJP which was initially divided whether to support him because his candidature was backed by its friend-turned-foe JD(S).
"BJP has taken a decision to defeat the Congress candidate in the Rajya Sabha election as per the directive by the national leadership," state unit BJP chief K S Eswarappa told reporters in Bangalore after the Legislature Party meeting here, indicating his party would help Mallya, the JD-S backed independent, to ensure his second term in the Rajya Sabha.
Mallya has spoken to Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa and other BJP leaders, he said responding to a query but sidestepped a question on whether any decision has been taken to vote for the liquor baron.
Mallya needs 45 first preference votes for victory. PTI