Foreign Minister S Jaishankar has defended his election to the Rajya Sabha from Gujarat in a reply to the Supreme Court, asserting that there was no violation of law.
Mr Jaishankar’s election in 2019 from one of the two seats vacated by Union Ministers Amit Shah and Smriti Irani had been challenged by Gaurav Hemantbhai Pandya, the Congress candidate who had lost.
Mr Jaishankar, in his affidavit, says the voting procedure adopted by the Election Commission did not violate any law.
The Congress leader’s appeal was “based on misrepresentation of facts and not understanding the correct law position”, the External Affairs Minister said.
Mr Pandya’s appeal had not been accepted by the Gujarat High Court, after which he had gone to the Supreme Court.
Polls were conducted in May 2019 for the seats vacated by Amit Shah and Smriti Irani after they won the Lok Sabha election. The polls were conducted through separate voting and the BJP won both seats.
The Congress argues 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. Each lawmaker’s vote is counted only once.
The BJP had 100 lawmakers and the Congress had 71 in the Gujarat assembly. As the elections were held separately, a candidate needed only 50 per cent of the votes (88) to win.
To hold the voting separately was “illegal and in violation of the constitution”, the Congress candidate says in his petition.
But according to the government, 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 had asked for the External Affairs Minister’s response.