Amit versus Ahmed

Usually elections to Rajya Sabha are tame affairs. Number of candidates is equal to number of seats and candidates win unopposed. Rarely there is a contest. One candidate loses when there is a contest.
Elections to three Rajya Sabha seats from Gujarat on 8/8/2017 saw interesting twists. There were four candidates. BJP had fielded Amit Shah, Smriti Irani and Balwantsinh Rajput. Congress had fielded Ahmed Patel. The contest was seen as Amit Shah versus Ahmed Patel. Narendra Modi wants Congress-Free India. Amit Shah is BJP President. Ahmed Patel is political secretary to Sonia Gandhi.
Balwantsinh Rajput was a Congress member. BJP got him to quit Congress and join BJP and fight against Ahmed Patel. It is said Amit Shah holds Ahmed Patel responsible for his imprisonment in Sohrabuddin Shaikh encounter case. Congress leaders were jittery about TV channels mentioning Ahmed Patel as political secretary to Sonia Gandhi. They said Ahmed Patel is contesting as a Congress member and not as political secretary to Sonia Gandhi.
Congress had 57 MLAs in Gujarat Legislative Assembly. Ahmed Patel was a sitting MP of Rajya Sabha from Gujarat and his victory was taken for granted. Then Shankarsinh Vaghela quit Congress. Some Congress MLAs followed him. Some Congress MLAs resigned from Legislative Assembly. Congress accused BJP of offering 15 crore rupees bribe to its MLAs and intimidation of MLAs who did not except bribe. It shifted its MLAs to Bangalore. Some channels were critical of Congress. They said Congress MLAs were enjoying in Bangalore while Gujarat was flood-affected. Congress MLAs replied they were not safe in Gujarat. The MLAs stayed at Eagleton Golf Resort owned by Karnataka’s Energy Minister D. K. Shivakumar. Income Tax Department raided his properties.
After voting on 8/8/2017 Shankarsinh Vaghela said “As Ahmed Patel is going to lose, I have not given my vote to him.” Congress leader Ashok Gehlot said “Out of our 44 MLAs, one of them has cross-voted.”
In the evening the action shifted to Delhi. Congress leaders Randeep Surjewala and Ratanjit Pratap Narain Singh went to Election Commission and met CEC A. K. Joti and EC O. P. Rawat. They presenteda video and said Bhola Gohel and Raghavji Patel had shown their ballot papers to unauthorised persons and their votes should be quashed. Then BJP delegation headed by Arun Jaitley approached Election Commission. Ravi Shankar Prasad, Piyush Goyal, Dharmendra Pradhan, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, P. P. Choudhary and Nirmala Sitharaman were in the delegation. BJP contended that once votes are cast nothing can be done and the process was fair and EC should reject Congress plea. Returning Officer is the statutory authority for polling and counting. EC has no power.
Then Congress delegation returned, this time led by P. Chidambaram. Chidambaram wanted rejection of the two ballot papers and cited precedents. He said “The most recent precedent in Haryana on June 11, 2016. On that day, in the election to the Rajya Sabha, a Congress MLA’s vote was rejected on the ground that the ballot paper has been seen by a person other than the authorised person…”
BJP delegation returned and demanded immediate counting of votes. Congress delegation was back for the third time and BJP delegation followed. EC said it would not meet more delegations. EC viewed video footage. It invoked Article 324 of the Constitution and overruled Returning Officer’s decision and ordered that the votes of Bhola Gohel and Raghavji Patel be invalidated. It is rare for EC to overrule RO. Ahmed Patel won. Balwantsinh Rajput lost. Victories of Amit Shah and Smriti Irani were not in doubt.
It was Randeep Surjewala’s vote that was disqualified on 11/6/2016 after BJP objected he showed it to Congress Legislature Party leader Kiran Choudhary who was not the authorised person while Congress leader and AICC General Secretary B. K. Hariprasad was the authorised person. That time BJP benefitted. This time Congress benefitted.
The election had side shows. Nitish Kumar wanted JD(U) MLA Chhotu Vasava to vote for BJP. He voted for Ahmed Patel. Nitish Kumar sacked Arun Srivastav as general secretary for appointing an authorised agent of behalf of the party. Of the two NCP MLAs, Kandhal Jadeja said he voted for BJP against party whip. BJP MLA Nalin Kotadiya said he had voted for Ahmed Patel.
It is victory of Ahmed Patel and defeat for Amit Shah at personal level and victory for Congress and defeat for BJP at party level.

Updated: August 10, 2017 — 7:30 am

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