After SC allows NOTA in Gujarat Rajya Sabha polls, BJP and Congress set for battle of numbers

After failing to keep the NOTA (none of the above) option out of the upcoming Rajya Sabha election in Gujarat – following Thursday's Supreme Court decision – the ruling BJP and Opposition Congress will now gear up for a numbers game.

The SC rejected Congress' plea and said that the NOTA option would be available to voters in the election. The numbers face-off now promises to be interesting, particularly since it is a very close affair. While the BJP is assured of two seats, it's locked in a stiff competition with the Congress for the third one. The Congress candidate is Ahmed Patel, party president Sonia Gandhi's confidante. The result of this seat would be a matter of prestige for both parties.

NOTA. Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

In the recently concluded election for Rajya Sabha members from West Bengal, six nominees of Trinamool Congress (TMC) virtually won unopposed – by sheer strength of numbers.

Keeping this number game in mind, the Congress urged the apex court to put a hold on NOTA – strategy that could be used to ensure Ahmed Patel’s victory, especially, in a situation, when six of its MLAs have already resigned.

The Congress in Gujarat received a big blow after its tall leader and former chief minister Shankersinh Vaghela quit the party on his 77th birthday on 21 June.

What Constitutional experts say?

Subhash Kashyap, a Constitutional expert and author told Firstpost: "NOTA is a legal provision and it's already there. It's the law of the land and the SC through its decision has made the legal position clear by not having a stay on it."

"NOTA in any way doesn't mean the right to rejection. It's the political compulsion of political parties in Gujarat who have demanded a stay on NOTA," he added.

According to the Election Commission of India's rules, in the Rajya Sabha polls, the MLAs have to show their ballot paper to an authorised party agent before putting it in the ballot box. If a voter (MLA) defies the party directive and casts the ballot for someone else or uses the NOTA option, he cannot be disqualified as a legislator but the party is free to take disciplinary action, including expulsion.

What next?

With the NOTA in place, both the BJP and the Congress would have to chalk out their strategies by numbers.

On 8 August, elections will be held for three seats in Gujarat. The BJP has fielded its president Amit Shah, Union Minister Smriti Irani and ex-Congress MLA Balwantsinh Rajput, whereas the Congress has fielded Ahmed Patel.

Gujarat Assembly has 182 MLAs, out of which the BJP has 121 and the Congress 57. With the resignation of six MLAs, the Congress party is left with 51.

"To successfully make it to Rajya Sabha, a nominee will need 44 votes," a source in know of the developments said.

To prevent its MLAs from moving out of its stable, the Congress has kept its 42 MLAs in a resort in Bengaluru. But, there are nine others who have remained in Gujarat and didn't join the bandwagon, which includes Vaghela and his son.

Incidentally, the third BJP candidate, Rajput, is also a relative of Vaghela.

"Now, it needs to be seen who the close confidants of Vaghela along with him and his son vote for," the source said.

There won't be any problem for Shah and Irani to make it to the Upper House.

"The actual fight would be between Rajput and Patel. For Patel, it’ll be a matter of prestige. The BJP will put its entire strength to make Rajput win. After all, it’s a game of numbers. The party that manages the right numbers will eventually win," the source added.

Updated Date: Aug 03, 2017 18:09 PM

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