The high pitch drama ended soon after midnight, leaving the ruling party somewhat red faced. When the Election Commission declared the votes of two Congress MLAs who voted for the BJP and violated rules by showing their votes to an unauthorised person in the polling booth, the BJP suffered a major embarrassment.
There was shock after the intense fight in which the BJP had raised the stakes very high – more than half a dozen union ministers were sent to the Election Commission, not once but thrice.
The BJP, which has been exuding extreme confidence of winning all the three seats in the Gujarat Rajya Sabha election, has gone silent in the national capital after the EC announced its decision. The rejection of two votes have made it impossible for the BJP to elect its third candidate – Balwantsinh Rajput — and ensured the victory of Congress veteran Ahmed Patel, whom the BJP wanted to defeat desperately.
However, this is not the first time the BJP is stretching the boundaries in the Rajya Sabha election. It tried to push the envelope by fielding an extra candidate without having the requisite numbers in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and in Uttarakhand, but failed each time. Last July, as the ruling party in Jharkhand, the BJP, clinched both Rajya Sabha seats defeating a united Opposition with the help of some cross voting.
In Gujarat, the stakes were high right from the time of the nominations. When the Congress moved its 44 MLAs to Bengaluru – where they stayed from July 29 to August 7 to avoid possible poaching by the ruling party – the BJP unleashed a political attack on the party for being away from the flood-hit state. A senior Karnataka minister D K Shivakumar, who was overseeing the MLAs’ stay, faced searches by the income tax department last week in what the Congress called an act of “political vendetta”. Raids were conducted continuously for four days in Shivkumar’s resorts and properties.
The battle was set against the backdrop of political developments in the state in which the senior Congress leader Shankarsinh Vaghela revolted against his party leadership. Six Congress MLAs quit party, reducing its strength from 57 to 51. Vaghela had the support of seven more MLAs in the Congress. The BJP has managed to get Vaghela and his MLAs to vote for its candidate.
On Tuesday, BJP Chief Amit Shah, an MLA in Gujarat assembly, was overseeing the party’s preparations. Shah along with Union Minister Smriti Irani won their respective elections. General Secretary in-charge of the state, Bhupender Yadav, who played a key role in the party’s surprising victory from Jharkhand, was also stationed in Gujarat for the last two days. “We are moving towards a Congress free Gujarat. All three candidates of BJP will win tomorrow,” Yadav said on Monday.
When the Congress complained against two of its legislators, and demanded the rejection of their votes, the BJP sent a battery of its leaders including top ministers led by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. “It would have been a routine election but the party has raised the stakes too high,” said a party leader.
Incidentally, Shah and his party face this embarrassment on a day when he completes three years as BJP President.