Guj RS poll counting delayed; Congress, BJP rush to EC
Counting for elections for three Gujarat Rajya Sabha was to have begun at 5 pm on Tuesday after voting ended in the afternoon. But it had not begun more than five hours later, as the Congress shifted the Gujarat battle to Delhi with a petition to the Election Commission to reject the votes of two of its legislators in the state who it alleged had shown their ballot papers not just to the party's polling agent as required, but also the polling agent of the BJP. Congress leaders also alleged that Raghavji Patel and Bhola Gohil had shown the slips to BJP chief Amit Shah, who too is a candidate in the Rajya Sabha election.
The Election Commission has indicated it will announce a decision later on Tuesday night.
The Congress cited precedence to say that the two MLAs must be disqualified before counting can begin. The party has requested the Election Commission to review video tapes from the election and already three Congress teams with top leaders like P Chidambaram and Anand Sharma have visited the poll panel's office. The BJP too has sent a team twice led by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to the Election Commission to counter the Congress and demand that counting of votes begins.
"If the BJP is so confident of winning the election then it must abide by the law. And the law is very clear. If the ballot is seen by a person other than the authorised person then it is liable to be rejected. BJP was a beneficiary of this law on June 11, 2016. How was law changed in one year? These two ballot papers must be rejected," Chidambaram said after meeting the Election Commission.
The BJP has said the Congress has made "baseless allegations" accusing the rival party of raising a "non-issue" as it "senses defeat" for Ahmed Patel, political secretary to Congress president Sonia Gandhi. "The Congress's allegations have no substance and they are setting a wrong precedent," said BJP's Ravi Shankar Prasad.
Amit Shah will make his debut in Parliament with Tuesday's election and union minister Smriti Irani will be re-elected to the Upper House - the BJP has enough legislators in the Gujarat assembly to ensure that and then some. For the third seat, they have fielded former Congressman Balwantsinh Rajput to challenge Ahmed Patel.
That was turned into a close contest due to the defection recently of six Congress MLAs and also cross-voting on Tuesday, all by MLAs close to local politician Shankarsinh Vaghela who is seen to be exacting revenge for the Congress' refusal to project him as the presumptive chief minister in assembly elections in Gujarat later this year.