Voting for 24 Rajya Sabha seats across 10 states – most of them delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic – began at 9 am on Friday. Elections are being held to four seats each in Karnataka, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh, three each in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, two in Jharkhand and once each in Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Manipur. Results will announced after 5 pm.
On Thursday, the Election Commission of India had issued a standard operating protocol for the safe conduct of polling process in Gujarat. The new guidelines included separate routes and waiting areas for MLAs suspected to have Covid-19, and screening of all MLAs at the entry of the legislature, where the voting process will take place. In other states, all MLAs will have their temperature checked and will need to wear protective masks.
The Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress are locked in a close contest in Gujarat since both the parties do not have absolute numbers in the Assembly to secure a victory for their respective candidates. The BJP has fielded three candidates – Abhay Bharadwaj, Ramila Bara and Narhari Amin – for the state’s four Rajya Sabha seats while the Congress has nominated Shaktisinh Gohil and Bharatsinh Solanki.
The BJP has 103 members in the 182-member Gujarat Assembly. Congress’ strength has been reduced to 65 since eight of its legislators have resigned since March. A candidate will need the support of at least 34 MLAs to win. With its current strength, the BJP is certain to win three seats while the Congress is sure to secure only one.
Kesarisinh Jesangbhai Solanki, BJP MLA from Matar Assembly constituency, arrived in an ambulance to cast his vote, ANI reported. Solanki had been hospitalised after having health problems.
In Madhya Pradesh, both the parties have fielded two candidates each for the three seats. Jyotiraditya Scindia and Sumer Singh Solanki are the BJP’s candidates while the Congress has nominated Digvijaya Singh and Phool Singh Baraiya.
BJP has 107 MLAs in the 230-member Madhya Pradesh Assembly and is also backed by two legislators of the Bahujan Samaj Party, one from the Samajwadi Party and two independent MLAs. Congress, on the other hand, has 92 MLAs. The current effective strength of the house is 206 since 24 seats are vacant.
Meanwhile, Congress MLA Kunal Chaudhary who tested positive for the coronavirus also turned up to vote at state Assembly in Bhopal, NDTV reported. “I reached Vidhan Sabha around 12.45 pm in an ambulance, with full precaution wearing a PPE kit, the officials were also wearing PPE kit, though I felt they were a bit scared, which is natural,” he told the television channel. “I voted for my party candidate and came back.”
BJP leader Hitesh Bajpai questioned how the Election Commission allowed Chaudhary to come out and cast his vote. “The permission of the Corona positive MLA to enter the premises by the Election Commission is a violation of epidemic control rules,” he tweeted.
In the Rajasthan Assembly, the Congress has 107 MLAs, the support of independent MLAs and legislators from the Rashtriya Lok Dal, Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Bhartiya Tribal Party. BJP has 72 MLAs and the backing of three Rashtriya Loktantrik Party MLAs. Congress’ two candidates, KC Venugopal and Neeraj Dangi, are expected to win the election.
Last week, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot had accused the Bharatiya Janata Party of deliberately delaying the Rajya Sabha elections by two months, so that they could complete their “buying and selling” in the state as well as in Gujarat. The chief minister had alleged that some of the party MLAs were offered Rs 25 crore in cash with an advance of Rs 10 crore to switch sides. The Congress took its legislators to a resort in Jaipur amid the poaching allegations.
In Manipur, the Congress moved a no-confidence motion against the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government ahead of the elections. The development came after the Conrad Sangma-led National People’s Party pulled out of the coalition and extended support to the Congress.
The Election Commission had in February announced polls to 55 Rajya Sabha seats across 17 states. In March, 37 candidates in 10 states were elected unopposed.