Gujarat Rajya Sabha Elections Fix: What do The Experts Say

New Delhi: The fate of Ahmed Patel’s Rajya Sabha candidature may hang on how the Election Commission views the objections raised by the Congress. Congress has requested that EC invalidate votes of two of its party members, who after showing their poll agent their ballot, also showed it to BJP’s poll agent.

Senior leaders, from Ravishankar Prasad to Bhupender Yadav from BJP, and P Chidambaram to Randeep Surjewala from Congress, argued their case with the Chief Election Commissioner in the capital.

While the Chief Election Commissioner takes his time in deciding the case, News18 reached out to constitutional experts and former election commissioners seeking their opinion on the current stalemate.

According to the former CEC, SY Quraishi, the Congress MLAs, by showing which way they’ve voted to representatives of the opposite party, have effectively wasted their votes.

“Going by the rules, if any voter shows their vote to anyone except their party’s poll agent, their vote is immediately disqualified. This is what has happened today,” said Quraishi.

To buttress their point, senior Congress leaders have raised two cases.

First, of the disqualification of votes cast by 14 Congress MLAs in Rajya Sabha elections held for a seat in Haryana last year. And second about a case from 2000 in Rajasthan when an independent member of the Upper House of the Parliament revealed his vote while casting it.

Speaking purely on technicalities, the case doesn’t have a precedent. Which is why, former CEC N Gopalaswami, when approached by News18 for a comment, said he was still going through the rules to arrive at a conclusion himself.

Former secretary general, Rajya Sabha, Yogendra Narain, also can’t think of a precedent to what happened in Gujarat on Tuesday. But he doesn’t think that the votes of the two Congress MLAs can be disqualified.

“I don’t think there is any law against an MLA showing his vote to people who aren’t from his party. It’s their privilege. There is no illegality in this I think. The concept of secrecy is subjective to what the respective voter makes of it,” said Narain.

Subhash Kashyap, another constitutional expert, also claims that the votes of the two Congress MLAs will not be disqualified.

“I don’t think the law anywhere states that a candidate cannot show his vote to anyone else. The law only mandates that a person cannot cast their vote under duress, so I don’t think that the votes will be invalidated. Also I don’t think there is a precedent to what’s happening there right now.”

According to Conduct Of Elections (Amendment) Rules, 2004 – ‘Provided that where such elector is a member of a political party in an election to fill a seat or seats in the Council of States, the presiding officer shall, before placing the tendered ballot paper in the said cover, allow the authorised agent of that political party to verify as to which candidate the elector has cast his vote.’

While uncertainty looms over the fate of Ahmed Patel, one can be very sure about one fact – that the contest between BJP and Congress won’t end here. Whoever loses, is bound to take the fight up to the courts.

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