Gandhinagar, Jul 5 : Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar and Gujarat Bharatiya Janata Party OBC front leader Jugalji Thakor emerged victorious in the bypolls for two Rajya Sabha seats in Gujarat, which were held in the assembly premises here, on Friday.
Both Mr Jaishankar and Ms Thakor, fielded by the Bharatiya Janata Party, secured 104 votes each, much higher than the 88 first priority votes required to get elected while Indian National Congress' candidates Gaurav Pandya and former minister Chandrikaben Chudasama got 70 each.
There were total 175 voters of which the vote of one MLA from BJP (Agriculture minister R C Faldu) was rejected. BJP candidates received five more votes each. Dissidents of Congress Alpesh Thakor and his close aide Dhavalsinh Zala had cross voted for BJP candidates and later resigned from the assembly. Two MLAs of the Bharatiya Tribal Party and one of NCP had also voted in favour of Congress.
Congress candidates had apart from the 69 votes of the party apart from 2 rebel MLAs have also got the vote of party supported independent MLA Jignesh Mewani.
Polling began at 0900 hrs today and ended at 4 pm after which counting of votes started a little later than the scheduled time of 5 pm due to objection by Congress candidate Pandya on the two cross voting party MLAs.
Going by the arithmetic of the state assembly, the BJP candidates win was already certain. Both of them today offered prayers in Jagannath temple of Ahmedabad before poll.The seats fell vacant following resignations of Union ministers Amit Shah and Smriti Irani after their election to Lok Sabha in the recently-concluded general election.
At present, four seats in the 183-member assembly are vacant due to resignation of as many BJP MLAs who were elected to the 17th Lok Sabha. Three other MLAs Bhagwan Barad (Talala seat) of Congress, Pabubha Manek (Dwarka) and Independent Bhupendra Khant (Morwa Hadaf) have been disqualified. So there are in all 176 MLAs ie voters. Of these 100 are from BJP, 71 from Congress including two of its rebel MLAs Alpesh Thakor and Dhawal Zala, two from Bhartiya Tribal Party (Congress ally) and one of Nationalist Congress Party and INC-supported Independent Jignesh Mewani.
A candidate getting 88 first priority votes was bound to win. And this way in the separate voting for the two seats BJP was sure of victory. However, Congress had taken its 69 MLAs (apart from Thakor and Zala) to a resort in North Gujarat due to an apparent fear of horse-trading/cross-voting.
The Supreme Court had on June 25 refused to interfere in the election on the Congress plea objecting to holding the two elections on the same date but separately. The bye-elections held separately (ie each MLA can cast separate votes) but simultaneously.
Notably, the Election Commission had announced the poll on June 15 after which Congress opposed it for the bye-polls being held separately. It had approached the Supreme Court on June 17 demanding simultaneous bye-polls (ie one MLA can cast the vote for either of the candidates rather than current provision of one can cast separate votes for the two seats).
The EC had clarified that as each vacancy is considered a separate one, hence the bye-polls were being held separately even though on the same date.
Notably, Mr Shah and Ms Irani had won in the Rajya Sabha polls held in August 2017 when elections took place simultaneously on the three seats of Gujarat quota. In a nail-biting finish, Congress leader Ahmed Patel had won the third seat with a close margin.
State Congress president Chavda today said that they would approach the apex court with an election petition to save the democracy and the constitution. It will also approach court for disqualification of the two cross-voter MLAs to prevent them from contesting any election for six years for defying the party whip.Congress, as well as the BJP, had issued whip to all its MLAs to cast votes in favour of the party candidates.