Cong directs Gujarat MLAs to vote for Ahmed Patel, NOTA not an option

Virendra Pandit Gandhinagar | Updated on January 09, 2018 Published on August 01, 2017

Ahmed Patel (file pic)

Panicked with the possibility of rebel Congress MLAs exercising the NOTA option, the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) has issued a diktat and clarified that disciplinary action will be taken against any party MLA found violating the whip issued for the August 8 Rajya Sabha election in Gujarat.

Despite the party MLAs enjoying the party’s five-star hospitality in far-away Karnataka, the Congress, uncertain about the outcome, is leaving no stone unturned to ensure that the legislators actually vote along the party line when they return to Gandhinagar for the poll.

In a statement here, CLP’s new Chief Whip Shailesh Parmar, whose immediate predecessor Balwantsinh Rajput is the BJP candidate and the chief challenger to Congress veteran Ahmed Patel’s fifth term candidacy, said on Tuesday that the party legislators have been directed to remain present and vote only for Patel, who is Political Secretary to Congress President Sonia Gandhi.

He said issuance of a whip is meant to inform the voters about ‘what to do’, and not ‘what not to do.” No fresh whip will be issued.

“The Congress has studied all technical aspects closely and issued the whip accordingly. The legislators have also been apprised in detail and in writing about what its violation could mean.”

Parmar also slammed the ruling BJP for “spreading rumours” that violation of NOTA did not invite disciplinary action against legislators. He said the BJP is unlikely to win the third Rajya Sabha seat against Patel, hence spreading rumours.

The whip has been issued to all 51 Congress MLAs, including Shankarsinh Vaghela, who, despite resigning from the party and as Leader of the Opposition in the Vidhan Sabha, technically continues to be a party legislator. He had only quit the party at a public function, and sent in his resignation from the Congress to Sonia Gandhi. He did not resign as an MLA in the Vidhan Sabha.

But how apprehensive the Congress is about possible cross-voting, exercise of the NOTA option and the uncertain outcome of the poll could be gauged by reports that the party High Command now sought to shield the Gandhi family from the possible fallout in case Patel lost the poll. Sources said the party bigwigs were trying to distance the “High Command” and downplay the election as a ‘routine’ one, describing Patel as yet another party leader.

Clearly, next week’s election to the Upper House of Parliament from Gujarat is no longer the tame or routine affair it used to be in the past. With six of its 57 MLAs resigning after Vaghela quit, the party leadership virtually whisked away its 44 MLAs to the safe haven of Karnataka. Patel needs at least 47 MLAs’ votes. The Congress hopes that Patel would make it with the expected 44 Congress votes, plus two from the NCP, one from a BJP rebel, and the solitary JD(U) vote of Chhotubhai Vasava, despite Nitish Kumar rejoining the NDA camp.

The NOTA option was introduced by the Election Commission in 2013 following a Supreme Court ruling. While it has been used in other elections since, NOTA, as an option, is being given in a Rajya Sabha poll for the first time.

On Monday, Gujarat Chief Secretary Dr J. N. Singh submitted a report to the Election Commission regarding the Congress Party’s allegations against the ruling BJP’s “horse-trading” in the Rajya Sabha elections, levelled after six party MLAs, out of 57, resigned from the Vidhan Sabha last week. The Opposition party has also accused the BJP of using an IPS officer to influence the Congress MLAs through bribes and threats.

Due to the ongoing repairs in the Vidhan Sabha building, the two-day monsoon session of the Assembly will be held on August 8 and 9 at Mahatma Mandir and the R.S. poll at Swarnim Sankul in the Secretariat premises. Voting for the poll will be held from 9 am to 4 pm on August 8.

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Published on August 01, 2017
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