Maha Congress chief Chavan bats for open vote in Council polls

Ashok Chavan

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Nagpur: Following a suspected cross-voting by 25 legislators from the Congress and NCP in favour of BJP candidate Prasad Lad in the recent Legislative Council poll, Maharashtra Congress president Ashok Chavan today said these elections should not be held through secret ballot.

Secret ballot creates a scope for malpractices, he said.

“A proposal had been sent to the union home ministry when (late Congress leader) Vilasrao Deshmukh was chief minister. He followed it up with the Centre, but for some reason the system wasnt changed,” Chavan told reporter here.

Chavan, who followed Deshmukh as chief minister, said he too is a supporter of open vote instead of secret ballot, and lobbied for a change in the system.

“I also tried to change the system as lot of things happen during the secret ballot. Money power should not be used in such elections, but because it is a secret vote, there is always a scope for malpractices,” Chavan said.

The election for a single seat of the Legislative Council was necessitated by the resignation of Narayan Rane who quit the Congress, miffed with the party leadership, especially Ashok Chavan.

Apart from votes of 121 MLAs of the BJP and 63 MLAs of its ruling coalition partner Shiv Sena, Lad got additional 25 votes, which presumably came from the opposition camp, getting a total of 209 votes.

“It was a secret ballot. So nobody can tell who indulged in cross-voting. This is worrisome, therefore I am demanding open vote in MLC elections,” Chavan said.

In December 2015 Lad, then an NCP leader, had contested an election to the Legislative Council from the Mumbai Municipal Corporation constituency as independent, defying his partys fiat. He managed to win 20 additional votes, which were suspected to have come from the Congress, though he lost, by only two votes, to Congresss Bhai Jagtap.

According to political observers, Lad getting additional votes this time, over and above the strength of the BJP and Sena in the 288-member Maharashtra Assembly, has sent a message to the Sena that the BJP is not dependent solely on the Senas support in the Lower House.