Day Drama, Midnight Counting
New Delhi: The El e c t i o n Commission late on Tuesday night declared two votes of Congress rebel MLAs as invalid in the Gujarat Rajya Sabha polls, upholding the Congress appeal that the two had violated the poll code by showing their ballot to BJP’s polling agent. The EC decision brought down the number of votes a candidate needed to win to 44 from 45. However, the result to the closely-fought Rajya Sabha election for the third seat between Congress and BJP in Gujarat was not known at the time of going to the press as the counting of votes had begun only after the late-night EC decision. Earlier in the day, the Congress complained to the Election Commission that the two rebels had shown their vote to BJP’s polling agent before putting them in the ballot box. According to rules, one cannot show one’s vote to anybody other than the polling agent of the party one belongs to. Doing so would lead to the vote being counted as invalid..
Congress said the CCTV footage of the voting process should be examined to arrive at a conclusion. Congress insiders claimed that Patel had secured 43 votes of party MLAs and one vote each from NCP and JDU. However, there were reports that two of the 44 Congress MLAs may have cross voted. To win, a candidate needs 45 first preference votes.
BJP sent a high-level delegation led by finance minister Arun Jaitley, and comprising senior ministers Ravi Shankar Prasad, Piyush Goyal, Nirmala Sitharaman and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, to the Election Commission to counter the Congress charge.
BJP cited rules to argue that the complaint should have been made when the anomaly was noted and not after the polling process was completed. The party alleged that Congress was doing all this to delay the process as it had realised Patel had lost the polls. Congress countered the BJP by sending a second team comprisi ng s e ni o r par t y l e a ders P Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal and Randee p S u r j e wal a to the Election Commission to argue its case. Chidambaram later told reporters that the complaint was lodged late as the polling authorities were expected to act on their own at this discrepancy and Congress decided to lodge a complaint only when it found this had not been done. The counting process was stalled for the day as the two parties took the matter to the Election Commission thrice and the poll panel mulled over the issue.
SWARNIM SANKUL 2 Our Political Bureau