Balvantsinh Rajput, the BJP candidate who lost the Rajya Sabha election from Gujarat recently, today moved the Gujarat High Court against the Election Commission’s decision to invalidate the votes of two rebel Congress MLAs. Rajput, who quit the Congress ahead of the August 8 election, also contended that votes of two other Congress MLAs should be discounted, and he should be declared winner. The EC’s decision paved the way for the victory of Congress candidate Ahmed Patel — who got 44 votes, the minimum he needed to win — in the high-stakes electoral battle. Rajput polled 38 votes.
Rajput’s petition claimed that once the Returning Officer had used his discretion to accept the two votes as valid, the EC had “no power to issue any direction to the Returning Officer for accepting or rejecting any vote”. As Chief Justice R Subhash Reddy was on leave today, the petition came up before the senior-most judge, Justice M R Shah, who ordered that it be listed for hearing on August 21 before the appropriate bench. The EC had rejected the votes of former Congress MLAs Raghavji Patel and Bholabhai Gohel.
Congress’s polling agent Shaktisinh Gohil had lodged a complaint before the counting began that these two MLAs showed their ballots to BJP representatives before putting them in the ballot box. MLAs are not allowed to show their ballots to anybody other than the authorised polling agent of their own party, the Congress leader said.
Both these MLAs voted for Rajput instead of voting for Ahmed Patel. However, as the votes were held invalid, Patel was declared winner (along with BJP’s Amit Shah and Union minister Smriti Irani). Had Patel got less than 44 votes, Rajput could have won with second preference votes from the BJP. Rajput’s petition said that EC’s order should be set aside, as it was “patently illegal”.
Once the Returning Officer had exercised his discretion of accepting these two votes as valid, the EC had no power to hear any appeal against the order. The only remedy the aggrieved party had was to move a court, it said. Rajput also alleged that Patel won because of “corrupt” practices”.
Two other MLAs of Congress had also shown their ballots to unauthorised persons, and these two votes, which went to Patel, must be held invalid, the petition said. If these two votes were rejected, Rajput would get more votes, and hence he should be declared as elected to Rajya Sabha in place of Patel, the petition said