Following a dramatic series of events that lasted till the wee hours of Wednesday, senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel was reelected to Rajya Sabha from Gujarat along with BJP president Amit Shah and Union Minister Smriti Irani. Patel polled 44 votes, the required number to cross the line after the Election Commission declared two votes cast by rebel Congress legislators invalid. Shah and Irani received 46 votes each. Congress turncoat Balwantsinh Rajput registered only 38 votes.
So, what happened last night?
Polling in the Gujarat Rajya Sabha elections were conducted on Tuesday with four candidates in the fray. From the BJP camp, party president Amit Shah, Smriti Irani and former Congress MLA Balwantsinh Rajput who switched over to the BJP were nominated while the Congress put up Ahmed Patel as its candidate.
As scheduled, polling was conducted between 9.00 am to 4.00 pm, with 176 out of 182 members casting their votes (six seats in the Gujarat Assembly are vacant). However, in a quick blow for the Congress, veteran leader Shankarsinh Vaghela, who recently quit from all posts, announced that he hadn’t voted for the party candidate as he “wasn’t going to win”.
But things turned around for the party after the 44 Congress MLAs, who were taken to Karnataka to ensure they weren’t swayed by the BJP, arrived to vote. After that, things went smoothly… till 4 pm.
The Congress filed two applications for rejection of votes tendered by two MLAs, Bhola Bhai Gohil and Raghav Bhai Patel, for violating the polling procedures. The party claimed the MLAs had shown their ballot papers to Amit Shah. The petition was first rejected by the Returning Officer.
Read: Meet the two disqualified in Gujarat Rajya Sabha polls: Both veterans, one’s been with BJP. Click here.
On rejection, a delegation of Congress leaders including party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala and former minister RPN Singh met with Election Commission officials in New Delhi and raised objections to the RO’s decision. They submitted that their allegations could be reviewed using video footage of the voting. Ahmed Patel also e-mailed the Commission requesting cancellation of the two votes.
Swinging into action, the BJP sent its own representatives, including Union ministers Arun Jaitley and Ravi Shankar Prasad to convince the Commission to proceed with counting. In the words of the EC, the leaders “added that the concept of secrecy in the elections to the Rajya Sabha is no more valid because the Parliament itself has made elections to the Rajya Sabha through open ballot.”
The ping-pong match did not end here, as Congress subsequently sent a second delegation led by Ghulam Nabi Azad to reiterate their demand to the Commission. And then, Jaitley met the Commission for a second time, again calling for commencement of the counting of vote.
The EC’s decision
The EC, taking into consideration the Congress’ plea, obtained the video footage of the voting. In an eight-page order it declared that the two MLAs had violated polling procedures and secrecy of the ballot. Read the full order here.
In a huge sigh of relief for the Congress, the two votes were disqualified. This meant, Ahmed Patel now required only 44 votes to secure a fifth term in Rajya Sabha.
Read: Crisis manager overcomes toughest hurdle, Congress braces for tough times. Click here.
With celebration at both quarters put on hold, the EC began counting the votes at close to midnight. Patel expressed “confidence” and “optimism” in winning.
And, soon after, he took to Twitter with the single phrase, “सत्यमेव जयते”.
“This is not just my victory. It is a defeat of the most blatant use of money power, muscle power and abuse of state machinery. BJP stands exposed of personal vendetta and political terror. People of Gujarat will give them a befitting reply in this year’s election,” Patel wrote minutes later, “I want to thank each and every MLA who voted for me despite unprecedented intimidation & pressure from BJP. They voted for an inclusive India.” Read: Ahmed Patel tweets ‘Satyameva Jayate’ after retaining seat. Click here.
Amit Shah, who completed three years as party president on Tuesday, was elected to Parliament for the first time while Irani returned for the second time.
On the sidelines, JD(U) Gujarat general secretary Arun Srivastava, the lone party MLA in the state, courted controversy after declaring support to Ahmed Patel. He even slammed the party on live television saying, “Who is KC Tyagi to say anything? Chotubhai has voted, he will tell. Our support is with Ahmed Patel.” Read the full story here.
So, who cast a surprise?
There were four MLAs who were expected to vote for the BJP but may sidetracked, costing the BJP its third ticket to the Rajya Sabha. BJP MLA Nalin Kotadiya, a supporter of the Patidar quota stir, refused to divulge who he voted for but said he has “voted in the interest of the Patidar.” Chhotu Vasava, the lone JD(U) MLA, openly announced his support to Patel.
Meanwhile, Kandhal Jadeja from the NCP, declared that he voted for the BJP despite the party being an ally of the UPA. “I will elaborate on it later,” he told The Indian Express. The other NCP MLA, Jayant Patel, told the media that his party is in the UPA. Read more about the four leaders whose votes proved crucial here
Political reactions to the election
Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Amit Shah and Smriti Irani on their election to the Upper House on Wednesday. He tweeted, “Congratulations to BJP President @AmitShah & ministerial colleague @smritiirani on getting elected to the Rajya Sabha from Gujarat.”
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) August 9, 2017
The Congress, from its official Twitter handle, congratulated Ahmed Patel on his win.
Heartiest congratulations to @ahmedpatel on his win!
— Congress (@INCIndia) August 8, 2017
Union Minister Arun Jaitley said, “Many congratulations to @BJP4India President Shri @AmitShah ji & my colleague @smritiirani on being elected to the Rajya Sabha from Gujarat.”
Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said, “Congratulations @BJP4India President Shri @AmitShah ji for your spectacular Rajya Sabha win.”
Smriti Irani, on winning, expressed her gratitude to PM Modi, Amit Shah, Vijay Rupani and the Gujarat BJP leadership for giving her the opportunity to serve the state. She also congratulated Shah for his election.
— Smriti Z Irani (@smritiirani) August 8, 2017
— Smriti Z Irani (@smritiirani) August 8, 2017
Former finance minister P Chidambaram said, “Money, muscle and manipulation could not win in the Gujarat RS election. BJP can break a few weak Congress MLAs, but BJP cannot break the Congress party.”
BJP can break a few weak Congress MLAs, but BJP cannot break the Congress party.
— P. Chidambaram (@PChidambaram_IN) August 8, 2017
Sharad Yadav from the JD(U) said, “Heartiest congratulations on your victory in Rajya Sabha election in spite of toughest hurdles. Wish you all success in your career.”
Heartiest congratulations on your victory in Rajya Sabha election in spite of toughest hurdles. Wish you all success in your career. pic.twitter.com/ICNTmq02nY
— SHARAD YADAV (@SharadYadavMP) August 9, 2017
Former J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah tweeted, “That Ahmed bhai has won is a very welcome development but it should have never been this difficult. Introspection & strategy shift warranted. How much more evidence do we require to understand that we opposition parties are up against a ruthless, finely tuned BJP political machine.”
Lok Sabha MP Baijayant Jay Panda tweeted, “Woke up to the results of the Rajya Sabha’s most high voltage election ever. Congratulations @AmitShah Ji @smritiirani Ji & @ahmedpatel Ji. Yday some Tweeple dissed our democracy by accusing the impeccable #EC of bias before it decided dispute! Their guy won. They owe EC an apology????”