In a a nail-biting Rajya Sabha election finish , Congress leader Ahmed Patel was declared elected from the Gujarat Assembly early on Wednesday. BJP president Amit Shah and Union Minister Smriti Irani were also declared winners at the end of counting of votes at Swarnim Sankul in Gandhinagar.
It was a tightrope walk for Mr. Patel, political secretary of Congress president Sonia Gandhi. The BJP had fielded Balwantsinh Rajput against him
Ahead of the results, the BJP received a setback, with the Election Commission late on Tuesday accepting the Congress demand to invalidate the votes of its legislators Raghavji Patel and Bholabhai Gohil, who cross-voted and showed their ballots to the BJP polling agent in violation of the rules. As per the Election Commission rules, a legislator cannot show his or her ballot to any unauthorised person except his own party’s polling agent authorised by the Commissio.
“The Commission has held two votes invalid,” B.B. Swain, Gujarat’s Chief Electoral Officer, told The Hindu.
After the Commission's ruling, only a total 174 votes cast by legislators was valid ones, against the Assembly strength of 182. Six Congress MLAs had resigned as legislators, including Mr. Rajput, who took on Mr. Patel.
Chaos and confusion
Earlier in the day, chaos, confusion, high drama and flip-flops, claims and counterclaims dominated the high-stakes voting for the three Rajya Sabha seats.
As many as eight Congress legislators, including former Leader of the Opposition Shankersinh Vaghela, his son Mahendrasinh Vaghela and others voted for the BJP, hurting the chances of Mr. Patel, who was seeking a fifth term.
“I have voted against Ahmed Patel because the Congress did not deserve to win,” Mr. Vaghela told mediapersons after voting.
However, for the Congress, the setback was not Mr. Vaghela's or his son’s cross-voting. The problem arose when Sanand legislator Karamshi Patel, who was part of the 44 MLAs flown to Bengaluru as a desperate measure to keep its flock together, cross-voted in favour of the BJP.
Ahmed Patel's plea to party legislators
With Mr. Karamshi Patel’s cross-over vote, only 43 legislators of the party had voted for Mr. Patel. Earlier in the day, when the MLAs were being taken to the polling station in a bus from a resort, Mr. Patel had reportedly cried before them, asking them to forgive him if he had ever hurt anyone.
Interestingly, the most flip flops and claims and counter claims came from JD(U) legislator and seasoned tribal leader Chhotu Vasava. Who he has voted for remained suspense till the end. On Tuesday morning, he travelled with Congress leaders from Anand to Gandhinagar but at the polling station, he was escorted by two BJP leaders, who subsequently claimed that he voted for their party.
However, a few hours later, Mr. Vasava slammed the BJP for ''ignoring tribals'' and stressed that he voted for Mr. Patel.
It may be noted that JD(U) leader K.C. Tyagi claimed in Delhi that their party legislator was asked to vote for the BJP and he had followed the whip.
A divided NCP
On the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) front, the party appeared divided with its two MLAs voting separately for the candidate of their choice. Kutyana legislator Kandhal Jadeja voted for the BJP, while Jayant Patel said he voted for the Congress candidate as the NCP was a part of the United Progressive Alliance.
Late on Tuesday night, the lone legislator from the Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) that was merged with the BJP, Nalin Kotadia, claimed that “he did not vote for the BJP in the poll.”