Counting of votes for the three Rajya Sabha seats in Gujarat was delayed as the Congress moved the Election Commission seeking that votes of two party MLAs, who claimed to have voted for the BJP nominees, be declared invalid.
The counting of votes was scheduled to start at 5 pm. The Congress claimed the two MLAs — Raghavji Patel and Bhola Gohil — belonging to Shankarsinh Vaghela group showed their ballots to the party’s authorised agent as well as to the BJP’s agent.
Patel and Gohil showed their ballots to the Congress agent Shaktisinh Gehlot and to the BJP agent, thus their votes have become invalid, the Congress claimed.
“They had voted for the BJP. After showing their ballot to me, they also flashed their ballot to the side where (BJP national president and the party candidate) Amit Shah was sitting, and there is a video of this,” senior party leader Shaktisinh Gohil said.
“… Presiding Officer D M Patel is under pressure. We will ask for an official copy of the video and will even move Supreme Court if we find that the video is tampered with,” he said.
Gohil said counting of votes cannot start until the presiding officer takes action on the objection raised by the Congress.
Congress’s head of communications, Randeep Surjewala and his senior party colleague, RPN Singh, visited the office of the Election Commission urging the poll panel to play its role as the protector of democracy.
This was soon followed a visit by even bigger delegation of the BJP leaders comprising Union Ministers, Arun Jaitley, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Piyush Goel, Nirmala Sitharaman and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.
The leaders told media that the EC must not address the Congress’s grievances and rule in favour of the BJP by allowing the counting to start at the earliest.
This prompted the Congress party to send another delegation to the EC to counter the argument of the BJP leaders.
Reacting to Gohil’s charge, state BJP president Jitu Vaghani said such a demand reflects the opposition party’s frustration as the Congress knows that its defeat is imminent.
“Congress internal scuffle has come to the fore, and such a demand (to show video and invalidate votes of the two MLAs) shows their frustration. They are opposing counting of votes because they are set to lose,” he told reporters.
“Such an objection is only because of their frustration. Talking about video after the vote is cast makes no sense. However, the returning officer has the power to take the decision. We have written to the returning officer to take a decision on his own. They should not blame the BJP. Lack of trust on election officer is not right,” the BJP leader said.
Congress Rajya Sabha nominee Ahmed Patel is tightly placed as he requires 45 votes to win in a situation where several members of his party have either defected to the ruling BJP or cross-voted to the BJP nominees.
Patel’s immediate opponent is Balwantsinh Rajput, who before joining the BJP was the Congress chief whip in the Assembly.
Good news for Congress was that the lone JDU MLA defied the diktat of Nitish Kumar to vote for Patel saying that the Bihar chief minister had not consulted him before aligning with the BJP.
This was also followed by the emergence of the party whip issued by the NCP, which had two MLAs. According to the whip, both NCP MLAs were instructed to vote for Patel. However, it emerged that only one of them had voted for the Congress candidate. If this happens, then Patel’s tally will go to 45.