Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel today questioned the Election Commission’s decision to introduce NOTA after the notification of the Gujarat Rajya Sabha elections in which he is one of the candidates. He also referred to the delay in scheduling the elections which were due in June. “First Rajya Sabha election was postponed. Second NOTA was permitted post notification. Reasons best known to the Election Commission,” Patel posted on Twitter. Patel, the high-profile political secretary to party president Sonia Gandhi, is seeking another Rajya Sabha term in the polls to be held on August 8.
His party MLAs from Gujarat are huddled together at a resort in Bengaluru following desertion by six legislators. The election for the Rajya Sabha is being held in the state after nearly two decades as generally candidates were elected without having to face the contest. The poll authorities yesterday announced here that none of the above (NOTA) option can be used for the Rajya Sabha elections. Gujarat Assembly secretary D M Patel had said that the NOTA option will be printed on ballot papers to be used in the Rajya Sabha polls. The EC had earlier declared the RS polls for 10 seats in the states of Gujarat, Goa and West Bengal will be held on June 8. However, on May 22, it announced postponement of the polls which were later rescheduled for August 8.
In a jolt to the Congress, six of its MLAs in Gujarat quit the party on July 27 and July 28. Three of them joined the BJP and one of them, Balwantsinh Rajput, was made the BJP’s third candidate for the Rajya Sabha polls scheduled on August 8.
In the 182-member Assembly, the strength of the Congress has gone down to 51 from 57. Subsequently, the rattled Congress tucked away 44 of its MLAs to a Bengaluru resort to insulate them from “poaching” attempts by the BJP.The BJP has fielded party president Amit Shah, Union minister Smriti Irani and former Congress MLA Balwantsinh Rajput in the Rajya Sabha elections.
Of the total 11 RS members from the state, the term of three–Irani and Dilipbhai Pandya (both BJP) and Patel–is ending on August 18. The Congress has also issued a whip to its MLAs to remain present on the day of the polling, failing which they will be debarred from the party for six years.