National News

Gujarat Rajya Sabha poll: Shankersinh Vaghela and two Congress MLAs say they did not vote for party

The BJP’s nominees are Amit Shah, Smriti Irani and Balwantsinh Rajput, while the Congress’ is Ahmed Patel.

The elections to three Rajya Sabha seats from Gujarat were held on Tuesday. Voting began at 9 am and ended at 4 pm at the Saputara Hall of Swarnim Sankul II inside the New Secretariat complex. The results will be declared in the evening.

The Bharatiya Janata Party has fielded the party’s National President Amit Shah, Union minister Smriti Irani and former Congress chief whip in the Gujarat Assembly Balwantsinh Rajput, who had joined the BJP last month. The Congress’ nominee Ahmed Patel is fighting for a fifth term in the Upper House.

Former Congress leader Shankersinh Vaghela said he did not vote for Patel. Two Congress MLAs Dharmendra Jadeja and Raghavji Patel also said they had not voted for their party’s candidate, triggering questions about the secret ballot. “The Congress had not been listening to us for a year,” Jadeja told ANI.

Raghavji Patel said he had voted for Rajput, adding that he wants to remain in politics but not in the Congress.

However, Gujarat Congress leader Arjun Modhwadia said he was confident of the party’s victory, reported ANI. “We received more votes than we needed to win the seat,” he said. “We got 43 votes so far...JD(U)’s Chhotubhai Vasava has publicly said he voted for Ahmed.”

But former Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel said the BJP’s victory was certain as they had been preparing for the election ever since its date was announced.

During the Presidential election, more than 10 Congress members had cross-voted for Ramnath Kovind, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance’s candidate.

Whom do the numbers favour?

As the BJP has 122 members in the Gujarat Assembly, it is in a position to easily win two Rajya Sabha seats from the state. The third one, for which Rajput is up against Ahmed Patel, will be a close contest. The BJP will need cross-voting for the third seat.

Patel has the support of 44 Congress MLAs. A candidate needs one additional preference vote than the competiton to win. If MLAs vote as they are expected to, it means both Patel and Rajput will need at least 45 votes to win.

The Congress’ strength went from, 51 to 45 after six members, including Rajput, resigned from the party in July. Three of them joined the BJP, forcing the Congress leadership to fly its leaders to a resort in Karnataka to prevent any more poaching.

On Monday, Patel was confident of a victory and had claimed that he had the support of the Nationalist Congress Party and its two MLAs in the Gujarat Assembly – Kandhal Jadeja and Jayant Patel.

However, hours later, Jadeja said the party leadership had asked him to vote for the BJP’s Rajput. Patel had said that besides the two NCP legislators, the lone Janata Dal (United) MLA in the Gujarat Assembly, Chhotubhai Vasava, had also extended support to him.

Dissension within Congress ranks

On July 21, Vaghela had claimed that the party had suspended him. He had said he quit all party posts, and as leader of Opposition in Gujarat, he would not join the BJP.

On Monday, the 44 Gujarat Congress MLAs, who were sent to a resort in Bengaluru for 10 days, returned to the state. The legislators had been flown out of Gujarat after six of them quit the party.

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