Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma

Guwahati: Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Friday claimed that of the 22 opposition MLAs of the state, who voted for NDA nominee Droupadi Murmu in the presidential election defying their party line, 15-16 are from the Congress.

Altogether 124 MLAs of the 126-member assembly exercised their franchise in the presidential election on July 18, while two legislators from the AIUDF were outside the country.

Compared to the NDA’s strength of 79 in the House, Murmu secured 104 votes, while joint opposition candidate Yashwant Sinha got 20.

There are 44 opposition MLAs in the state assembly.

Of the 22 “extra” votes that the NDA candidate received, “15 to 16 are from the Congress and the remaining may be from the AIUDF or Independent”, Sarma told reporters here.

Assam state Congress president Bhupen Bora admitted that there was cross-voting in the presidential poll and claimed that at least six MLAs from his party voted in favour of Murmu, defying its stated support for the opposition candidate.

“In a presidential election, MLAs and MPs vote according to their conscience and not as per their parties’ affiliations.

“I don’t want to say much or create any political controversy on the voting pattern. I also don’t believe that there will be any division in any political party on this issue,” Sarma said.

The CM also expressed his heartfelt gratitude to the people of Assam for reposing their faith in the NDA’s presidential candidate.

Bora said, “Altogether 24 Congress MLAs along with the lone CPI(M) legislator and an Independent had attended a meeting where opposition nominee Yashwant Sinha was present to seek their support. It is obvious that some of them had links with the ruling camp.”

He also stated that the party “will identify them and necessary action will be taken”.

Asked whether the opposition AIUDF MLAs had voted for Murmu, Bora said, “Before looking into what other parties did, we will have to deal with our MLAs who did not support the opposition nominee”.

AIUDF chief Badruddin Ajmal had earlier announced that his party would support Murmu but in a turnaround a day before the presidential poll, it had decided to vote for the opposition nominee.

On the day of the election, AIUDF MLA Karimuddin Barbhuiya had claimed he had evidence that “20 Congress members, if not more, voted in favour of Murmu”.

The All India United Democratic Front has 15 MLAs in the state assembly but two of them did not vote in the election as they were not in the country.

The ruling NDA has 79 MLAs in the state assembly, while three BPF members, who support the alliance in the House also voted for Murmu.

The Congress has 27 MLAs but three of them have been suspended due to anti-party activities and they have most likely voted in favour of Murmu, a party source said.

The CPI(M) legislator and an independent member had pledged their support to Sinha.

Murmu, 64, won by an overwhelming margin, receiving over 64 per cent of valid votes cast by MPs and MLAs, comprising the electoral college, to succeed Ram Nath Kovind to become the country’s 15th president.

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