July 5 (IANS) External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar was on Friday evening elected to the Rajya Sabha from Gujarat along with BJPs OBC Cell member Jugalkishore Thakor, defeating Congress candidates on two seats that fell vacant after Union ministers Amit Shah and Smriti Irani won the April-May Lok Sabha polls.
According to the Election Commission, Jaishankar bagged 104 votes, four more than the 100 BJP legislators in the State, while one vote was declared invalid. He defeated Congress’ Gaurav Pandya, a protege of party veteran Ahmed Patel, who polled 70 votes, including one of Independent MLA Jignesh Mevani.
Two rebel Congress MLAs, Alpesh Thakor and his close aide Dhavalsinh Jhala, cross-voted for the BJP, while two lawmakers of the Bharatiya Tribal Party and one of Nationalist Congress Party exercised their franchise for the ruling party. Thakor and Jhala subsequently resigned as MLAs.
Similarly, Jugalkishore Thakore defeated Chandrika Chudasama of the Congress, getting 105 votes against 70 of the latter. No vote was rejected in this case.
Polling, which began as scheduled at 9 a.m. in the State Assembly complex, concluded at 4 p.m.
Voting took place at a single polling booth 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.
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.