National News

Gujarat Rajya Sabha polls: EC declares ballots of two Congress MLAs who cross-voted invalid

The Election Commission ruled that the legislators had violated secrecy rules, giving the party’s candidate Ahmed Patel an advantage.

The Election Commission on Tuesday night ruled that two votes cast by Congress members of the Gujarat Legislative Assembly in favour of the Bharatiya Janata Party will not be counted in the Rajya Sabha polls. The EC concluded that the two MLAs had violated secrecy rules by showing their ballots to BJP National President Amit Shah.

The polling monitor will now begin to count the votes for the election.

“The commission has viewed the video recording of the votes cast by the said two MLAs, and it has been observed therefrom that the said two electors violated the voting procedure and secrecy of ballot papers cast by them,” the EC said in its order.

As a result, votes cast by Bholabhai Gohil and Raghavjibhai Patel, the two Congress MLAs who cross-voted, will now be rejected by the returning officer and segregated from the rest of the ballots.

“After so segregating the said two ballot papers, the returning officer shall proceed with the counting as per law,” the EC said.

Congress party leader Shaktisinh Gohil had earlier alleged that Bholabhai Gohil and Raghavjibhai Patel had voted for the BJP and showed their ballots to Shah, who is one of the party’s candidates for the polls.

“If a voter shows his vote to anyone other than the party’s authorised agent, then his vote gets rejected,” Gohil had told ANI. “Congress MLAs Bholabhai Gohil and Raghavjibhai Patel voted for the BJP and publicly showed their votes to Amit Shahji. It has been videographed.”

The EC’s decision should aid the Congress, which was in a tight fight to re-elect senior leader Ahmed Patel. The BJP, in previous weeks, had managed to pull several Congress MLAs over to its party and convince others to vote for its candidates, leaving Patel with very little leeway in the final count. The disqualification of two votes for BJP candidates, however, should mean that Patel is in a position to win enough votes and return to the Rajya Sabha.

The BJP had enough votes to comfortably vote in Shah as well as fellow candidate Smriti Irani. It had fielded Balwantsinh Rajput in the hopes of coming in the way of Patel’s candidature.

After voting Tuesday’s Rajya Sabha polls ended and the Congress’ allegations of secrecy violations, the BJP sent five Union ministers, including Arun Jaitley and Ravi Shankar Prasad, to the Election Commission in the hopes of convincing them to not nullify the votes. But once the EC had seen the video, it concluded that the Congress had correctly identified a violation of election rules.

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