After performing miserably in the Lok Sabha elections, getting just 52 seats, the Congress started concentrating on building a Rajya Sabha majority. In this regard, their efforts have been futile, especially since their prominent leader, Dr Manmohan Singh could not be re-elected to Rajya Sabha. After their ally DMK refused to give them a Rajya Sabha seat in Tamil Nadu, Congress had been counting on the Gujarat by-elections and unfortunately for them, they have suffered a defeat on that end as well.
2 seats were vacated in the Gujarat Rajya Sabha, owing to Smriti Irani and Amit Shah being elected to the Lok Sabha from Amethi and Gandhinagar respectively. For these seats, by-elections were to be held in the state which the Congress had been eyeing. Given their relatively better performance in the Assembly elections, the Congress had full hopes on securing at least one of the two seats, which has now been nullified.
BJP candidates have won both the seats on Friday, when the by-polls were conducted. According to media reports, Union Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar and Jugal Thakore have emerged victorious, as announced by Chief Minister Vijay Rupani. He stated, “Both of our candidates have won the election with a thumping majority. Congress tried to create hurdles in the elections and went up to the Supreme Court, but it failed.”
The CM is right on point. Congress had tried to create hurdles in the electoral process in order to secure a seat. Leader of opposition in the Gujarat Assembly, Pareshbhai Dhanani had filed a petition in the Supreme Court, challenging the Election Commission’s decision to conduct separate elections to Rajya Sabha seats in the state. The EC had released a press note which stated, “It is further clarified that the vacancies for [byelections] to all Houses, including the Rajya Sabha, are considered as separate vacancies and separate notifications are issued and separate poll is taken for each of the vacancies although the programme schedule for the [byelections] may be common.”
The Congress has 71 MLAs and the BJP has 100 MLAs out of a total strength of 175 in the Gujarat assembly. Under this electoral process, since each of the seats was to be polled separately, each BJP candidate could vote for both the seats separately, as opposed to the simultaneous voting that the Congress wanted. Since BJP has 100 MLAs, well above the majority mark, it was but obvious that they will secure both the seats.
The Supreme Court had rejected the petition, stating that it did not violate any fundamental rights of the petitioner. The court refused to intervene after the Election Commission issued notification for polls and said that the petitioner could file an “election petition” after the polls if they required to.
Now, though yet to be officially announced, BJP has secured the seats with a thumping majority. In order to get a majority, each candidate has to secure 50%, that is, 88 votes. S Jaishankar has secured 104 votes and Thakor 105; meanwhile, Congress candidates Chandrika Chudasama and Gaurav Pandya have only managed to get 70 votes each.
Not just restricted to BJP’s majority in the assembly, the mandate is also a result of cross-voting as a couple of estranged Congress MLAs have voted for BJP candidates. Two rebels of the Congress, Alpesh Thakor and Dhavalsinh Zala have voted for BJP candidates. According to the officials, they resigned immediately after casting their ballots.
According to PTI, Thakor stated, “The Congress observer tried to create a lot of issues over my vote, so you can understand for whom did I vote. I have cast my vote for the honest national leadership that wants to take the country to new heights. I cast my vote as per my inner voice. I got nothing other than mental stress by being in the Congress party. I am free from that burden.”
Zala, on the other hand, was quoted saying, “From the day I became an MLA, senior leaders in the party were harassing me.”
Perhaps the most surprising element is the disgruntlement of Alpesh Thakor. Once regarded as the future of Congress in Gujarat, he was a staunch critic of the BJP. However, Rahul Gandhi’s leadership has lead to this as after resigning, Thakor stated, I joined Congress trusting Rahul Gandhi, but unfortunately, he did nothing for us. We were insulted again and again.”
Apart from them, the BJP candidates also secured voted from one Nationalist Congress Party MLA Kandhal Jadeja and two Bhartiya Tribal Party legislators Chhotubhai Vasava and his son Mahesh Vasava.
The smooth election of BJP leaders to both the Rajya Sabha seats has all the hallmark of Amit Shah’s strategy. Even though this was a tricky election, he reached out to dissenters and made sure that the BJP leaders were allied with the common agenda. Contrary to their original notions, Congress did not even stand a chance.