Brisk voting on for by-elections to 2 RS seats from Gujarat



Polling for the two Rajya Sabha seats vacated by Union Ministers Amit Shah and Smriti Irani continued at a brisk pace here on Friday with 90 ruling BJP legislators and around 25 of the Congress having cast their vote by early afternoon.

Polling began as scheduled at 9 a.m. at a single polling booth with separate divisions for the two seats, elections to which were being held separately as decided by the Election Commission (EC).

On the basis of its strength of 100 MLAs, both the BJP candidates, Union External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and OBC Cell member from North Gujarat Jugalkishor Thakor, are likely to sail through. Congress has fielded senior leader Chandrika Chudasama and Gaurav Pandya from South Gujarat.

After casting his vote, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani told reporters: "We have adequate strength and I'm sure both our candidates will win comfortably."

Asked about allegations of horse-trading, Rupani ridiculed the charge and said: "It is the Congress which has all these fears as they have lost the trust of their MLAs and had to take their members to some resort. We have no worries, we have the numbers. We never indulge in horse-trading."

Fearing horse trading and cross-voting, the Congress took as many as 60 of its 71 legislators to a luxury resort in Palanpur in North Gujarat, instead of Mount Abu in Rajasthan as planned earlier. 

A bus-load of Congress MLAs arrived around noon to cast their votes. Rebel Congress MLA Alpesh Thakor, who had quit all party posts in the run up to the Lok Sabha elections, also cast his vote but it was not known which party he had voted for. 

Nationalist Congress Party MLA Kandhal Jadeja, one of the two from the party in Gujarat, refused to say which party he had voted for and only stated: "I have the party's mandate and have voted accordingly. I can't disclose the details of the mandate." IANS