Day Drama, Mid­night Count­ing

The Economic Times - - Pure Politics -

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

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