After much drama in the Rajya Sabha elections in Gujarat, Congress’ Ahmed Patel finally managed to win back his seat with just enough votes to return to the Upper House for the fifth time. The results came late at night as the Election Commission, after dramatic turn of events, invoked Article 324 of the Constitution to cancel the decision of its Returning Officer (RO) in the state and invalidated the votes of two Congress MLAs who voted against the grand old party.
While the words of confirmation on the win of BJP’s Amit Shah and Smriti Irani came much earlier, Patel confirmed his dramatic win in a post in social networking site, Twitter, at 1:50 am, as he wrote ‘Satyamev Jayate’ to flaunt his win.
In a series of Twitter posts, the Congress leader said, “This is not just my victory. It is a defeat of the most blatant use of money power, muscle power and abuse of state machinery. I want to thank each & every MLA who voted for me despite unprecedented intimidation & pressure from BJP. They voted for an inclusive India. BJP stands exposed of personal vendetta and political terror. People of Gujarat will give them a befitting reply in this year’s election.”
Congress’ complaint to the Election Commission:
BJP can break a few weak Congress MLAs, but BJP cannot break the Congress party.
— P. Chidambaram (@PChidambaram_IN) August 8, 2017
While Ahmed Patel witnessed major setback in the early hours of voting with speculations on Congress MLA’s casting ballot against the party, Congress sought the intervention of the Election Commission, complaining against two of its MLAs, Bhola Bhai Gohel and Raghabhai Patel. In their complaint, Congress mentioned that while both the MLAs had turned rebel, they have further violated Rule 39A and Rule 39AA under the Conduct of Election Rules 1961 as they had disclosed their choice of votes to an unauthorized person, other than the party’s election agents.
The political ruckus started at around 5:30 pm after Congress’ Randeep Surjewala and former Union Minister R P N Singh moved EC demanding for the cancellation of Gohil and Patel’s votes.
Election Commission verdict:
After studying the video footage of the two MLA’s voting, the EC found the Congress’ complaint valid and revoked the Returning Officer’s decision. At 11:25 pm the poll commission directed for the invalidation of the votes casted by the two MLAs and the related ballot papers. Over BJP’s contention that the ‘Commission has no power’ and the RO is the statutory authority for the election and counting, the EC stated that the decision was taken within its right “to act in those vacuous areas where either the law made by Parliament is silent or makes insufficient provision to deal with a situation in the conduct of election”.
As reported by the Indian Express, the Commission, while cancelling the two crucial votes, said, “Such segregation can be done at the time of counting with reference to the serial numbers of the ballot papers issued to the electors concerned as per the record maintained on the counter foils of ballots papers under Rule 38A.”
The dramatic development further delayed the counting of the polls, while the election at the Gujarat House moved to the Election Commission in Delhi where leaders of both the parties took turns to present their argument and counter-argument to the EC.
And as the Congress somehow managed to secure at least one out of the three seat in the Rajya Sabha Polls in Gujarat, the party leaders issued several statements to mark the victory. As reported by The Indian Express, senior Congress Leader P Chidambaram commented, “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. The BJP was beneficiary of this law on June 11, 2016. How has law changed in one year? These two ballot papers must be rejected.”
— ANI (@ANI) August 8, 2017
In a statement to ANI, Congress’ Renuka Chowdhury mentioned, “It was a hard won battle. Govt tried hard but ultimately democracy won. Congratulate Ahmed Patel Ji.”
Congress spokesperson RS Surjewala said, “Truth has emerged victorious in spite of BJP using all the power. Ahmed Patel will win.”
“Big win for democracy; will boost morale of Congress worker. Ahmed Patel will win with big margin,” said Bharatsinh Solanki, Gujarat Congress President to ANI.
And while many others congratulated Ahmed Patel on his win, the Bharatiya Janata Party has secured the two other seats at the Rajjya Sabha, with Amit Shah’s maiden victory and Smriti Irani’s win.
By Priyam Mukhopadhyay