Four seats 5 candidates: Gujarat RS polls to see close contest

Ahmedabad, Jun 18 (PTI) Elections for the four Rajya Sabha seats in Gujarat on Friday are likely to go down to the wire as both the ruling BJP and the opposition Congress do not have absolute numbers in the assembly to get all their candidates win on their own.

The BJP has fielded three candidates for the four seats, while the Congress, which has seen desertions in its legislative ranks, has given tickets to two nominees, making it a close fight and bringing in focus MLAs not allied to them.

MLAs will be voting to elect candidates for the Upper House of Parliament.

The BJP, with its current numbers in the 182-member assembly, can easily win two seats, while the Congress on the basis of its House strength can bag one. Hence, there will be a tough fight for the fourth seat between both the parties.

Notwithstanding their respective numbers, both the parties have expressed hope that all their candidates will sail through.

The BJP has fielded Abhay Bharadwaj, Ramila Bara and Narhari Amin, while the Congress has given tickets to Shaktisinh Gohil and Bharatsinh Solanki.

We are sure to win both the seats of the Rajya Sabha.

Our party has decided to give first preference to Shaktisinh Gohil and our second candidate is Bharatsinh Solanki, said GPCC chief Amit Chavda.

We are confident of victory for all our three candidates. All the BJP party MLAs will vote in favour of BJP candidates, while due to internal problems in the Congress party some of their MLAs will also vote for us, BJP candidate Amin told reporters.

Gujarat Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel had also expressed confidence that the party will win three seats.

Leaders of both the parties and their MLAs have been holding meetings and finalising strategy for the polls.

BJP observers Bhupendra Yadav and Ashish Shelar have been attending meetings with party MLAs here since Wednesday.

The Election Commission (EC) has made elaborate arrangements for the voting keeping in mind the coronavirus pandemic.

Every voter (MLA) will be screened for body temperature and will have use mask and adhere to social distancing norms. Legislators having a fever or showing other symptoms will be kept in a separate waiting room.

The Chief Electoral Officer of Gujarat has appointed Dr Dinkar Rawal as nodal officer (health) for the elections.

Earlier, three MLAs from the BJP and one from the Congress had tested positive for coronavirus but all of them have recovered now.

Considering that the effective strength of the assembly is reduced to 172, a candidate will require support of minimum 35 MLAs to win, as per the RS election standard formula. Ten assembly seats are currently vacant -- eight due to resignations of Congress MLAs and two due to court cases.

This number (35) has been arrived at using a formula,[(Number of MLAsX100)/(Vacancies+1)] + 1, with the value of each MLA's vote being 100.

With 65 MLAs and one independent (Jignesh Mewani) supporting its candidates, the Congress will still need the backing of four more MLAs to win both the seats.

While the BJPs House strength is 103, it will require support of 105 MLAs to win the three seats.

The faith of the fourth seat will be decided by the two Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP) MLAs and one of the NCP.

If candidates fighting for the fourth seat do not get a clear majority, then second preferential votes will be counted.

The BTP, headed by tribal leader Chotu Vasava, has not revealed its choice so far, but NCP MLA Kandhal Jadeja has indicated that he will vote for the BJP.

The situation would have been different for the Congress if eight of its MLAs had not resigned after the announcement of the Rajya Sabha polls.

Over the last few days, three Congress MLAs - Akshay Patel, Jitu Chaudhary and Brijesh Merja - resigned as legislators.

Five more MLAs - Pravin Maru, Pradyumnasinh Jadeja, Soman Patel, JV Kakidia and Mangal Gavit - had quit in March after the announcement of the Rajya Sabha polls which were later rescheduled in view of the coronavirus outbreak.

After resignations of its MLAs, the Congress had divided the remaining legislators into groups and put them in four different locations to stop further 'poaching' by the BJP. The ruling party has denied the Congress's allegation.

Around 20 MLAs from North Gujarat were taken to a resort on Abu Road in Rajasthan near the Gujarat border while others were kept in different zones of the state.

For the last two days, all the Congress MLAs have been kept at a five-star hotel near the Ahmedabad airport. PTI PD RSY RSY