The Congress is set to lose its senior leader Ahmed Patel’s Rajya Sabha seat in Gujarat — which it fought hard to win in 2017 — to the BJP. Ahmed Patel, a five-time Rajya Sabha member, died at 71 last month.
The Congress veteran’s seat was declared vacant on November 25, the day he died. His term was up to August 18, 2023.
Another Rajya Sabha seat fell vacant on December 1 after the BJP’s Abhay Bharadwaj died. His term was till June 21, 2026.
The Election Commission has decided to carry out two separate by-polls to fill the vacancies. If so, the BJP is likely to win both the seats.
The BJP has 111 MLAs in Gujarat while the Congress has 65. A candidate needs 50 per cent of the votes – or 88 votes — to win.
The BJP won both the Rajya Sabha seats vacated by Amit Shah and Smriti Irani in a similar process last year. One of them was won by Foreign Minister S Jaishankar, whose election has been challenged by the Congress in the Supreme Court.
The Congress has argued that it would have won one of the seats if the polls were held together on the system of proportional representation by means of a single transferable vote. In this, the lawmakers list their order of preference for each candidate. The candidate that is the first choice for more voters wins and each lawmaker’s vote is counted only once.
The government said it has been a consistent practice by the Election Commission “since 2009” to issue separate notifications for by-polls to the Rajya Sabha. The Supreme Court is yet to decide which side is right.
The Congress is planning to approach the Election Commission citing the court’s pending decision.”
Sources in the Election Commission told NDTV: “The practice of conducting separate polls has been going on for years and it has been upheld by the courts. Separate notifications will be issued for these two vacant seats and elections will be held separately in due course.”
Ahmed Patel won the seat after a bitter contest after being elected unopposed to the upper house four times. He was challenged by a former party colleague who switched to the BJP just before the polls.