Ten Rajya Sabha seats in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and West Bengal were up for grabs in Tuesday’s polls, but the country’s attention was riveted to Prime Minister rendra Modi’s home state where Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s trusted aide Ahmed Patel was contesting the third seat. In media hyperbole, this ‘high voltage drama went down the wire’, with counting of votes delayed by over 6 hours, Congress and BJP delegations rushing to the Election Commission’s office in New Delhi and the results declared only at around 2 am. But what the people actually got to see was the ugly face of the country’s democratic polity — of deception and defections, of cross-voting doubtless due to purchase of MLA votes. The Congress had gone to great lengths to protect its 45 MLAs from being ‘poached’ by the BJP, having earlier lost Shankar Singh Vaghela’s faction. Two more Congress MLAs then broke ranks to vote for the BJP candidate (himself a former Congress whip), but committed the indiscretion of showing their ballots to the BJP representative. As TV channels kept showing re-runs of CCTV camera footage of that disgraceful incident, the EC mercifully took a call to assert itself, overruling the returning officer by invoking its constitutiol powers under Article 324. With the two rebel Congress votes declared invalid, the strength of the House came down to 174 and Patel scraped through with the 44 votes he needed. Savouring his bitterly-fought win, Patel has tweeted ‘Satyamev Jayate’ and ‘defeat of the most blatant use of money power, muscle power and abuse of state machinery’. But when in power, Patel’s party did the same in other States; in Assam particularly, the Congress crowed from the rooftops after poaching Opposition votes in past Rajya Sabha polls to regularly get its candidates elected. The BJP leadership now needs to introspect whether it was at all wise to emulate such Congress shenigans, and raise the stakes so high to try blocking merely one Congress leader’s entry to the Upper House.
Ugly tussle in Gujarat