Gujarat RS polls: Cong complains about ‘invalid votes’

Virendra Pandit Rutam Vora Gandhinagar | Updated on January 09, 2018 Published on August 08, 2017

44 Gujarat Congress MLAs arrive at Swarnim Sankul 2, Gandhinagar to cast their vote in the Rajya Sabha election on Tuesday. Photo: Vijay Soneji   -  The Hindu

Smriti Irani   -  PTI

Ahmad Patel   -  PTI

Amit Shah   -  PTI

BJP too marches to the poll panel, demands immediate counting of votes

After a nail-biting high-voltage drama, counting of votes polled by all the 176 legislators in Gujarat — to elect three members of the Rajya Sabha — was delayed on Tuesday.

This followed the Congress approaching the Election Commission (EC), demanding that the cancellation of two ‘invalid’ votes. Polling, which was scheduled to take place between 9 am and 4 pm, had concluded by 2 pm itself. The counting of votes, which was to begin at 5 pm, could not start due to the objections raised by the Congress.

A high-level BJP delegation also rushed to the EC to present its version. The ruling party also filed a cross-complaint with the EC against Congress MLA Mitesh Garasia on the same grounds as raised by the Congress and demanded the cancellation of his vote.

The Congress objected to two of its rebel MLAs — Raghavji Patel and Bholabhai Gohil — showing their ballot papers to persons other than the authorised party agent at the polling centre. Congress leader Arjun Modhvadia said the two MLAs exhibited their ballot papers to all the three BJP candidates — Amit Shah, Smriti Irani and Balwantsinh Rajput — besides other unauthorised persons.

In a complaint lodged with Chief Election Commissioner AK Joti in New Delhi, the party alleged violation of voting procedure by the two legislators, who allegedly cross-voted in favour of the BJP.

Supreme Court lawyer Varun Chopra, representing the All India Congress Committee (AICC), demanded the cancellation of the two votes on the grounds of violation of the provisions of Rule 39 of Conduct of Election Rules, 1961. The Congress demanded that the EC direct the Returning Officer “ to follow the law in letter and spirit.”

PTI reports: Terming the Congress’s objections as “baseless”, the BJP today demanded immediate counting of votes for the Rajya Sabha polls in Gujarat, contending that the validity of votes once put in ballot boxes cannot be questioned.

A delegation of party leaders, including Union Ministers Arun Jaitley, Ravi Shankar Prasad and Piyush Goyal, approached the EC after the Congress did.

Goyal told reporters after meeting EC officials that the decision of the presiding officers is final.

“If neither they (Congress) nor election observers objected to it when the votes were cast, then the votes cannot be questioned now,” he said, and demanded that “the counting of votes should be done immediately and results declared.”

While the victories of Shah, who is making his debut in Parliament, and Irani looked certain given the numerical strength of BJP MLAs, the contest appeared close for Congress leader Ahmed Patel due to the defections of six party MLAs and cross-voting.

Patel’s immediate opponent is Rajput, who before joining the BJP was the Congress’ chief whip in the Assembly.

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Published on August 08, 2017
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