Riding on controversial ECI decision Sonia’s political secretary somehow sail through, Amit Shah and Smriti Irani wins convincingly

Gandhinagar:

After a controversial decision of the Election Commission, which many see as a ‘hard-luck’ for ruling BJP and an open case for legal-scrutiny, Congress president Sonia Ganhdi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel somehow managed to get the fifth consecutive entry to the upper house of the parliament during a sensational post-midnight counting for the yesterday’s election for 3 seats of Rajyasabha in Gujarat, in which BJP president Amit Shah and Union Minister Smriti Irani also easily sailed through as expected.

Despite tall claims of Congress, Ahmed Patel could get only 44 votes, the least needed for win while Shah and Irani got 46 each. The third BJP candidate Balwantsinh Rajput got 38 first preference votes and lost to Patel by a narrow margin of 0.40 votes. Had the two votes not been disqualified, the minimum mark would have been 45 and Rajput would have won the election with the help of second and third preference votes.

None of the BJP MLAs cross voted in the election but at least nine 11 opposition MLAs, most of them from Congress, cross voted for BJP. The much talked about NOTA option was left untouched.

After a 100% polling by all the existing 176 MLAs much before the scheduled time, the counting was delayed for over almost 8 hours owing to the demand of congress for cancellation of two of the votes of its dissident MLA’s belonging to Shankersinh Vaghela camp on technical grounds. The ECI after a high voltage drama accepted congress plea after which the counting started.

While Ahmed Patel and other Congress leaders called his win a ‘rejuvenation’ of Congress and claimed to repeat the success in this year’s assembly polls as well the BJP hit back at them saying the party would sink down.

CM Vijay Rupani in an early morning interaction with newsmen said that Congress which has seen a vertical split in this election was bound to see a big defeat in the assembly elections. He also said that Congress had tried all out to break the BJP but all of its MLAs who were unlike the ‘flocked’ ones of Congress were out there for service in flood hit areas voted for the party candidates and foiled the nefarious attempts of the opposition party.

He also said that the BJP was open to challenge the ECI’s decision in a court of law.

Meanwhile after the results the equation for the 11 Rajyasabha seats was again the same with 9 in the kitty of BJP and remaining two with Congress.

BJP has organized a felicitation event for Shah and Irani at its headquarters Srikamalam at Koba this afternoon.

Congress, which hailed the ECI as protector of democracy after its decision had a little while before the commission’s decision in its favour in a desperation even questioned the delay in decision making and the role of the commission and the returning officer. It had claimed that two of the party MLA’s Raghavji Patel and Bholabhai Gohil (both of Vaghela camp) had shown their ballots to BJP candidates. So it was violation of rules and their votes should be cancelled on the lines of the ones cancelled during Rahyasabha election in Haryana in June 2016. The ECI later accepted the demand after seeing the video footage and studying the related documents. BJP, however, questioned the decision and challenged the ECI to make the video public. It claimed that the MLA’s have done no wrong.

Union Law Minister Ravi Shanker Prasad had questioned the delay in complaint from Congress side. He alleged that the party started crying foul seeing its imminent defeat. One of the three delegations of BJP visiting the ECI was led by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley himself and included many top ministers including Piyush Goel, Nirmala Sitharaman and Ravi Shanker Prasad while the Congress delegations included former Finance Minister P Chidambaram, spokesperson Randip Surjewala and others. In a serious allegation, former Gujarat Congress President Arjun Modhwadiya had even went on to allege that despite the open confession of one NCP and JDU MLA about having voted for Congress candidate, the BJP was claiming other wise which raised doubt whether the party was hand in glove with the commission and changed the ballots. He also said that the Returning Officer D M Patel who has got two service extensions as assembly secretary was also under pressure from BJP. He claimed that the matter was informed to him well in time at 0930 am soon after it happened but the RO kept it hanging and even allowed the votes to get in to the ballot box. Raghavji Patel however claimed that he only showed his ballot to the Congress polling agent and MLA Shaktisinh Gohil. CM Rupani challenged the ECI to make the video of the incident public.

Various BJP leaders including Dy CM Nitin Patel, Gujarat In-charge Bhupendra Yadav, state president Jeetu Vaghani claimed that the video of the incident showed that the two MLAs who cross voted for BJP did no wrong. Patel said that Congress was unable to digest the defeat of Sonia’s advisor. Vaghani also said that the party would take a legal course against the unjust decision of the ECI.

Earlier amid high voltage sequence of events and a roller coaster like ups and downs for the political observers and parties, the voting for the crucial Rajyasabha elections on three seats of Gujarat which began at 9 am here yesterday amid tight security ended almost two hours before the schedule with 100% voting and at least 9 cross voting by Congress MLAs including a sensational one by Sanand MLA Karamsinh Patel, who was one of the 44 party MLA’s ‘flocked’ since July 29 at two resorts in Bangalore and central Gujarat. Returning officer for the polls and Gujarat Assembly Secretary D M Patel said that the voting completed almost two hours before schedule ie before 4 pm. All the 176 voters (MLA’s) have cast their votes. The schedule time for start of counting was 5 pm.

While Congress said that it would take disciplinary actions against violators of whip, it former ally NCP also issued a statement saying one of its two MLAs in Gujarat has cross voted to BJP. JD-U has taken action against its state general secretary Arun Srivastava for conveying party’s whip to its lone MLA who claimed to have voted for Congress. Shankersinh Vaghela and his six supporters had voted for his relative and the third BJP candidate Balwantsinh Rajput. Dissident Nalin Kotadiya, who had joined the BJP dinner on the night before polls in a late night video claimed that he had voted against BJP at the voice of his conscience. During the polling yesterday after the voting of the 42 flocked Congress MLAs, BJP reportedly did some recalculations and had put the voting of its MLAs on hold for sometime. Various claims and counter-claims by voters during polling kept the mood of the supporters of both the BJP and Congress camps swinging. The polling station for the election, which incidentally was first such poll to take place after 1996 (not needed earlier owing to consensus), was made in Swarnim Sankul 2, the premises of the seat of the government here.

After the resignation of six Congress MLA’s, there were a total of 176 voters (MLA’s) for the polls. After cancellation of the two votes. The counting of only 174 was done which brought down the minimum first preference votes requirement to 44 instead of earlier 45.

The election was necessitated owing to the nearing of the completion of the tenures of three outgoing members union minister Smriti Irani and Dilip Pandya(both BJP) and Ahmed Patel (Congress).

Meanwhile the win of two of the 3 BJP candidates, party president Amit Shah and Mrs Irani was almost certain while the fate of the third party candidate Balwantsinh Rajput who joined BJP after resigning from Congress was deemed to be hanging in balance along with the sole Congress candidate Ahmed Patel, the political secretary of Sonia Gandhi. In the total 182 seat assembly with 176 existing members, BJP has 122 seat including dissident Kotadiya (elected on GPP ticket) , Congress 51 (along with 7 of Vaghela camp who cross voted for BJP) and NCP 2 (one each to BJP and Congress)and JD U 1. All the four candidates were present in Swarnim Sankul since morning where the tight ballot battle for upper house took place.

Shah was seen sitting there past midnight along with CM Vijay Rupani and other senior leaders. Congress and BJP both had issued whips for the election. The 42 of the 44 Congress MLA’s flocked at a farmhouse in central Gujarat after their arrival to Gujarat yesterday morning from Bengaluru where they were in another resort for 9 days, had arrived here in a bus to vote. Two others Shaktisinh Gohil and whip Shailesh Parmar had arrived before the start of the polling. Gohil was the polling agent of the party and allegedly had a hot talk with Karamsinh Patel when he cross voted. He reportedly called him a ‘betrayer’.

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