The Congress feels it can win one of the two Rajya Sabha seats vacated by BJP leaders Amit Shah and Smriti Irani in Gujarat provided the Election Commission holds the polls for both seats together. The BJP, however, is likely to insist that the polls be held separately since the two seats were formally declared vacant on different dates. The Congress, on Thursday, demanded that the Election Commission hold elections for the two vacant seats together in Gujarat. The seats fell vacant after Shah won from Gandhinagar and Irani from Amethi Lok Sabha constituency respectively. The Congress fears that if the elections happen separately, BJP will have an advantage as it is the ruling party and it can win both the seats. Shah’s Rajya Sabha seat was formally declared vacant on May 28 and Irani’s a day later as the final result of Amethi was declared a day after Gandhinagar. Currently, the strength of the Gujarat assembly is 179 as three MLAs have been disqualified. The BJP has 103 MLAs and Congress 71 MLAs. The Bhartiya Tribal Party (BTP) has two MLAs and the NCP has one while two are Independent.
Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said: “It would be completely contrary to conventions because this has happened earlier in Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and other states. Whenever there are two seats of that state going vacant, you have elections together.” “We will demand as and when we get the appointment from the Election Commission to exercise complete vigilance. The provisions of the law says that you have to have the by-elections within six months. Whenever you have it, it has to be held together,” he added. BJP may insist that the polls for Irani’s Rajya Sabha seat be held later. The other option for the saffron party may be to get Congress legislators close to Alpesh Thakor –– who has quit the party –– to cross vote in favour of its candidate. But it is not clear as to how many Congress MLAs are in the Thakore camp.
The Congress had pipped the BJP in the election of its senior leader Ahmed Patel to the Rajya Sabha earlier. Despite efforts by BJP chief Amit Shah to wean off votes, Patel managed to win the seat in August 2017. All eyes will be on the Election Commission now as it has to take a call on whether the polls should be held simultaneously or separately. As per EC officials, the decision on scheduling of the Rajya Sabha elections is yet to be taken but the rule book on filling the vacancy within six months of it arising, would be adhered to. While there is no specific rule on the simultaneous or seperate election schedule for RS seats, each vacancy is generally treated by EC as a seperate election.