February 4, 2021 7:05:40 pm
Two separate bypolls for two Rajya Sabha seats in Gujarat will be held on March 1, 2021, the Election Commission announced on Thursday. The polls have been warranted due to the death of two sitting Members of Parliament who passed away due to Covid-related complications last year.
“The Commission has decided to hold two separate byelections to the Council of States from Gujarat to fill the vacancies,” a statement from the EC stated. The Chief Electoral Officer of Gujarat will be observer for the elections.
Congress leader Ahmed Patel was elected to the Rajya Sabha in a toughly contested polls in 2017, where a number of Congress MLAs quit the party before the polls. A five-time MP, Patel passed away in November 2020 after his health worsened following a Covid-19 infection. Patel was elected from Gujarat along with the then BJP president Amit Shah and Union Minister Smriti Irani.
A practising lawyer from Rajkot, Abhay Bhardwaj was elected to the Upper House in June 2020 and passed away during post-Covid treatment in December. Bhardwaj was elected with his colleagues Ramilaben Bera, Narhari Amin and Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil, all first time MPs to the Rajya Sabha.
At present, BJP has 111 MLAs and Congress has 65 MLAs in the Gujarat Assembly which currently has 180 MLAs. If bypolls for two seats were held together then both Congress and BJP would have won one seat each. With separate elections, a candidate will need 91 votes for victory which would put the Congress candidates at a disadvantage.
In a similar Rajya Sabha elections held in 2019, Congress party had challenged the election of BJP candidate S Jaishankar in the Supreme Court after the EC decided to hold two separate bypolls following resignation of Amit Shah and Smriti Irani who were elected to the Lok Sabha. The EC has then stated that “the vacancies for (byelections) to all Houses, including Rajya Sabha are considered separate vacancies and separate notifications are issued and separate polls are taken for each vacancies although the programme schedule for the byelections may be common.”
The last date for filing nominations is February 18. Polls will be held between 9 am and 4 pm on March 1. The counting of votes will take place the same day from 5 pm onwards.
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