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Drama at EC

Drama at EC

The midnight drama which unfolded at Election Commission had many gripping on to their television remotes, impatient to witness the final verdict of the Gujarat Rajya Sabha war. Ultimately, Ahmed Patel emerged victorious after a long tussle that had been fuming since the last fortnight. The Congress had strong hopes glued on their reliable manager, Patel, who has been a reputed taskmaster standing strong by the side of the UPA government during its 2004-2014 tenure. Indian politics is known for its upheaval, uncertainty and often anti-climatic situations. Yesterday was another such day when a battle was being strongly fought between BJP and Congress for a seat in the Rajya Sabha. While Smriti Irani and Amit Shah comfortably secured their positions, the gritting contest that witnessed conspiracy and controversy was fought between Patel and his Congress turned BJP counterpart Balwantsinh Rajput.

Not long ago the BJP would have decided to not wield a candidate against the powerful 'Ahmedbhai', yet situations have overturned since the seemingly undefeatable duo of Amit Shah-Narendra Modi has taken centre-stage of BJP's electoral power politics. With this win, Congress has bounced back, providing some hope to the opposition of being able to showcase strength in the Rajya Sabha which too seems to be slipping out of their control. Last night's controversy erupted after eight Congress MLAs, six from Shankarsinh Vaghela's camp deflected on to the side of the BJP to cast their vote against Patel. However, two of these votes were considered invalid, as they had bypassed the stringent norms of secrecy. Rule 39-A and 39AA of Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, clearly states that every elector to whom a ballot paper has been assigned must maintain

With this win, Congress has bounced back, providing some hope to the opposition of being able to showcase strength in the Rajya Sabha which too seems to be slipping out of their control. Last night's controversy erupted after eight Congress MLAs, six from Shankarsinh Vaghela's camp deflected on to the side of the BJP to cast their vote against Patel. However, two of these votes were considered invalid, as they had bypassed the stringent norms of secrecy. Rule 39-A and 39AA of Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, clearly states that every elector to whom a ballot paper has been assigned must maintain utmost secrecy of casting their vote, being allowed to share that information only with an authorised party representative.

MLAs Bholabhai Gohil and Raghavji Bhai Patel have been accused of disclosing their vote to Amit Shah, the BJP Chief. As soon as this was enacted, party delegations of the Congress and the BJP made a dash to the Election Commission, each placing their own distinct demands. The former demanded that the votes be considered invalid as this was against the norms of voting, as maintaining secrecy was of paramount importance. BJP, on the other hand, demanded that immediate counting is put into place contending that once ballot papers had been put into the box their existence cannot be questioned. The Election Commission on hearing narratives of both sides, and reviewing the video recording that exposes the act declared that the votes must be considered invalid, asking the returning officer(RO) to reject these by segregating them by serial number at the time of final counting.
Even though the BJP alleged that the arguments of the Congress were baseless, and the verdict of the RO who had rejected Congress' appeal was final, the Election Commission continued to put forth their final conclusion disqualifying the two votes which could have potentially hampered Patel's chances at a Rajya Sabha seat. "In the case of Independent members of the Assembly, he is not to show his ballot paper to anyone at all. Thus, even the provision of open voting in Rajya Sabha election does not mean that the principle of secrecy of vote has been given a complete go by and that the ballot paper of an elector can be shown to, or seen by, any member present in the place of the poll," the EC said, sealing its final verdict. This came as a huge relief to the Congress, who will now have the trusted Patel in the Upper house. Many would say that this victory emerges largely as callousness or maybe over-confidence, or maybe even a calculated game of the deflected MLAs. Had they not exposed their votes to Shah, the game against Patel would have gone BJP's way. For now, though the Congress camp can breathe a sigh of relief, as after long they have ensured to win a game against the mastermind Amit Shah. Shah had put in concentrated efforts to ensure that Patel did not secure his Rajya Sabha seat.
It was a game of prestige to prevent Patel from grabbing that one valuable place in the upper-house. Patel a deep strategist himself seems to have tipped over the BJP maestro in this round of the ongoing bout. While Opposition members can enjoy a night of peaceful sleep knowing that 'Ahmedbhai' has ensured one seat of victory for them, they still have a lot more to traverse prior to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, which still seems to be slipping out of their clutches. Patel has harnessed great reputation as the 'master-manager' of the Congress camp, standing strongly by the side of Sonia Gandhi. His repute was becoming nebulous with a question of defeat lingering in the background. Yet, this midnight victory, ensured by the EC verdict has brought in relief, and also highlighted the drama that pinnacles the nature of Indian politics. One can be assured, that a lot more is to unfold until 2019 when the real-epic is played out on the streets of our country!

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