Sixty-seven of 69 Delhi MLAs today exercised their franchise in the presidential poll, amid an appeal by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to the legislators to vote according to their “conscience”.
Two AAP MLAs – Saurabh Bhardwaj and Devendra Sehrawat – did not turn up. An AAP functionary said Bhardwaj is abroad, while Sehrawat, a rebel MLA, said he chose not to vote to highlight AAP’s “bias” against his constituency.
The 70-member Delhi assembly currently has 69 MLAs, of which, 64 belong to the ruling AAP and four to the BJP.
One seat is lying vacant since March when AAP legislator Ved Prakash had quit membership to join the BJP.
“Out of 69 MLAs, 67 cast their votes in the presidential poll,” Chief Electoral Officer Chandra Bhushan Kumar said.
As voting progressed, speculation was rife about alleged “cross-voting” by a few AAP MLAs. BJP MLA Om Prakash Sharma claimed that at least “10-12 AAP MLAs” had voted for NDA candidate Ram Nath Kovind.
The AAP has officially thrown its weight behind joint opposition candidate Meira Kumar, who had met Kejriwal yesterday.
“We are supporting Meira Kumar. All should vote following their conscience. In a democracy, whoever gets more votes wins, Kejriwal told reporters after casting his vote.
As voting gathered steam with city legislators arriving at the assembly, among the first to vote were Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, sacked AAP minister Kapil Mishra and Leader of Opposition in the assembly, Vijender Gupta.
“My vote went to one who is all set to become next president,” Mishra, who was the first AAP MLA to vote, told reporters here.
“More than who wins, it is important that the country wins,” Sisodia said.
BJP MLA Om Prakash Sharma had said, “Around 10-12 AAP MLAs, who are unhappy with Kejriwal, have cast their votes in favour of Ram Nath Kovind.
Delhi Labour Minister Gopal Rai said that although numbers were favouring NDA’s presidential candidate, the situation in Delhi is different and that it was important to protect democratic values.
Voting took place between 10 am and 5 pm. The results of the presidential polls will be declared on July 20.
While the Congress never invited the Aam Aadmi Party in the meetings of all opposition parties to finalise candidate in run-up to the nominations, the AAP decided to extend support to the UPA candidate after Kumar called up Kejriwal and sought support after she was named the opposition nominee.