Former Gujarat CMs call EC’s decision on Rajya Sabha poll Unethical, unprecedented, unconstitutional

Former chief ministers Suresh Mehta and Shankarsinh Vaghela have slammed the Election Commission’s decision to hold separate elections to fill up the two vacancies in the Rajya Sabha

Former Gujarat CMs call EC’s decision on Rajya Sabha poll Unethical, unprecedented, unconstitutional

Nachiketa Desai

Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Union Textiles Minister Smriti Irani ceased to be members of the Rajya Sabha (RS) on the same day following their election to the Lok Sabha. They both represented Gujarat in the Rajya Sabha.

Although the Election Commission was required to fill up the vacancies within six months, the Commission acted with alacrity and announced a poll schedule on June 15. And as anticipated by the Congress, the Commission notified two separate elections to fill up the two vacancies. Which meant that MLAs would not vote just once but twice and separately for each vacancy.

Last time Rajya Sabha vacancies were filled up from Gujarat was in 2017. There were three vacancies to be filled up and each MLA voted just once. And because of the proportional system and the single transferable vote, Ahmed Patel of the Congress won the third seat. Amit Shah and Smriti Irani of the BJP won the remaining two seats.

Following the Assembly election in Gujarat, the numbers have changed. And if one election is held now for the two seats ( See Explainer), BJP would be sure of bagging one seat but not the other. The EC’s decision has, however, been challenged in the Supreme Court by the leader of the Congress in Gujarat Assembly, Paresh Dhanani. The apex court is expected to hear the petition on Tuesday next week.

Meanwhile, former chief ministers Shankarsinh Vaghela and Suresh Mehta too have charged the Election Commission with colluding with the BJP and alleged that the decision to hold separate election for the two Rajya Sabha seats from Gujarat was not only unethical and unprecedented but unconstitutional as well.

The Election Commission (EC) wants to hold the election for the two seats separately, though on the same date. The EC issued two separate notifications for holding these elections on July 5. There will now be two separate ballot papers for electing two members of the Rajya Sabha separately. Votes would also be counted separately to declare the winners.

By holding separate election for each of the two Rajya Sabha seats, members of the Legislative Assembly will not have the option of casting preferential vote and thus the BJP, which has 103 members in the 182-member Assembly, will be able to win both the seats.

Had the election of the two seats be conducted through a single ballot paper, the Congress which has 71 members along with its allies – Nationalist Congress Party (1), Bharatiya Tribal Party (2) and one independent – would have had the chance to win one Rajya Sabha seat on the basis of preferential votes.

To secure an outright win for one candidate, both the BJP and the Congress need 61 first preference votes. The Congress will have ten first preference votes extra, while the BJP will have 42 first preference votes remaining for the second candidate. If no cross voting takes place, the Congress will easily get one candidate elected, while the BJP will be 19 votes short of getting a second candidate elected.

Since the BJP does not have the required number of MLAs to win the second Rajya Sabha seat, the party would have to engineer cross voting if it wants to win both the seats.

Gujarat Congress chief Amit Chavda alleged that the EC issued the notification to hold polls for two Rajya Sabha seats in Gujarat separately under pressure from the BJP. He called the EC’s decision ‘unconstitutional. “This is unprecedented, unconstitutional and blatant attempt by the EC to benefit BJP,” he said. Chavda said that Congress had an equal chance to win one seat if polls of both the Rajya Sabha seats were held together.

“If elections of both the Rajya Sabha seats are held together, according to the norm, the BJP will win one seat and the Congress will win one seat. Election of both these seats were held together. The Rajya Sabha seats of Smriti Irani and Amit Shah got vacant together. So, what is the need to hold two separate polls,” he asked.

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Published: 21 Jun 2019, 8:30 AM