BJP candidates, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and party OBC Cell member Jugalkishore Thakor, were on Friday poised to bag both the Rajya Sabha seats that fell vacant in Gujarat, with the ruling party getting 105 votes and the Congress managing 70, including that of Independent MLA Jignesh Mevani.
Polling for the two Rajya Sabha seats vacated by Union Ministers Amit Shah and Smriti Irani after they were elected to the Lok Sabha in the April-May elections ended at 4 p.m. The official results were yet to be declared by the Election Commission.
Voting took place at a single polling booth at the state Assembly complex with separate divisions for the two seats, since elections were held separately for the seats as decided by the Election Commission.
Since these were by-elections and Amit Shah and Irani had resigned on different dates, the elections to both the seats were conducted separately. The Congress had challenged this decision in the Supreme Court demanding joint elections, but was turned down.
After this, on the basis of its strength of 100 MLAs, the victory of both the BJP candidates was a foregone conclusion. If the elections were held together, the BJP and Congress would have got one seat each on the basis of first preference votes of their MLAs voting only once. In the present situation, the legislators voted twice.
Chief Minister Vijay Rupani claimed the BJP also got votes of the only Nationalist Congress Party MLA Kandhal Jadeja as well as two of Bharatiya Tribal Party, including its leader and former Janata Dal-United strongman Chhotubhai Vasava. Vasava had snapped ties with the JD-U of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar after he joined hands with the BJP.
Rebel Congress MLAs Alpesh Thakor and his protege Dhavalsinh Jhala were also reported to have cast their votes for the BJP candidates. With this, the BJP got 100 of its own legislators' votes, two of BTP, one NCP and two Congress rebels.
The Congress got 69 votes of its MLAs and one of Mevani. Seven seats in the 182-member House are vacant, including four where the MLAs won Lok Sabha elections and three were disqualified.
Congress fielded senior leader Chandrika Chudasama and Gaurav Pandya, a loyalist of party strongman Ahmed Patel from South Gujarat.
After casting his vote, Rupani had told reporters: "We have adequate strength and I'm sure both our candidates will win comfortably."
Asked about allegations of horse-trading, he ridiculed the charge, saying: "It is the Congress which has all these fears as they have lost the trust of their MLAs and had to take their members to some resort. We have no worries, we have the numbers. We never indulge in horse-trading."
Fearing horse trading and cross-voting, the Congress had taken as many as 60 of its 71 legislators to a luxury resort in Palanpur in North Gujarat, instead of Mount Abu in Rajasthan as planned earlier. A bus-load of Congress MLAs arrived around noon to cast their votes. All voted for the party candidates.