Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel’s victory was more than a battle of prestige for the grand old party after the leader successfully secured 44 votes and confirmed his entry for the fifth time in the Upper House.
Earlier, it was seen that the rebels and NCP would ensure his ouster from the Rajya Sabha but the Election Commission’s decision of quashing the two votes of Congress MLAs, who allegedly showed their ballots to BJP chief Amit Shah before casting them in violation of rules, gave him reprieve and paved his way to the Upper House. JD(U) legislator Chotubhai Vaswa also voted for Patel. BJP MLA Nalin Kotadiya also admitted that he has voted for the Congress party.
The poll panel watched the footage and passed the order, saying two electors-Bholabhai Gohil and Raghavjibhai Patel--had "violated the voting procedure and secrecy of ballots." According to the rules, voters for the Rajya Sabha elections have to show their ballots to authorized representative of their respective parties before casting them.
As it happened-
Congress approached the Election Commission demanding cancellation of the votes of Gohil and Patel for having shown the ballots to people other than the party's authorised representatives.
Three delegations each of the Congress and BJP made a dash for Nirvachan Sadan', the EC headquarters, within a span of two hours, with the former demanding that the votes of Gohil and Patel be declared invalid, and the latter insisting that counting be taken up "immediately".
The poll panel, finally, accepted the Congress's contention and asked the returning officer to reject the votes of its two MLAs and proceed with the counting.
Hours after the votes had been cast, Congress took the issue of alleged impropriety by its MLAs to the EC, setting off dramatic developments as delegation after delegation of the two parties made a beeline for the Nirvachan Sadan.
Congress leaders Randeep Surjewala and RPN Singh also produced a video of the poll proceedings to the commission and demanded that votes of Bholabhai Gohil and Raghavjibhai Patel be cancelled as per law since they violated the "secrecy of ballot".
BJP leaders approached EC
Terming Congress' objections as "baseless", a delegation of BJP leaders, including Union ministers Arun Jaitley, Ravi Shankar Prasad and Piyush Goyal, approached the EC demanding immediate counting of votes, contending that validity of votes once put in ballot boxes cannot be questioned.
Prasad said the Congress was acting out of fear of losing the poll, in which its senior leader Ahmed Patel is locked in a tight fight with a Congress rebel fielded by the BJP.
Chidambaram visited EC
Immediately, after the visit of the high-profile BJP team, Congress heavyweight P Chidambaram led another delegation to the EC.
After the meeting, Chidambarm told reporters,"If the BJP is so confident of winning the election then it must abide by the law. And the law is very clear. If the ballot is seen by a person other than the authorised person then it is liable to be rejected. BJP was beneficiary of this law on June 11, 2016.
He was apparently referring to the Rajya Sabha election in Haryana in which BJP-backed independent candidate Subhash Chandra had defeated Congress-supported candidate R K Anand after votes of several MLAs were declared invalid.
Surjewala alleged that the two legislators, instead of showing their ballots to party's election agent, displayed it to BJP president Amit Shah and Union Minister Smriti Irani, which he said, "should not be accepted".
Apart from Rajput, five other Congress MLAs had also quit with two joining the BJP with him, bringing down the Congress's strength in the 282-member House to 51 from 57.
Of these, seven, including former chief minister Shankarsinh Vaghela, did not join the 44 MLAs the Congress had packed off to a resort on Bengaluru outskirts. Vaghela had resigned from Congress ahead of the exit of the six MLAs. He also quit as leader of the opposition, but retained his Assembly membership. The other six MLAs who did not join the 44 lawmakers in Bengaluru were his camp followers and were learnt to have voted for BJP. (With PTI Inputs)