BJP v/s Congress takes spotlight as Rajya Sabha voting begins
Voting for 19 Rajya Sabha seats, spread across eight states (Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Manipur, Mizoram, and Meghalaya) started today, the first major political exercise since the coronavirus pandemic shut everything in March. Among states Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Gujarat are set to see a close contest between Congress and BJP. The results will be announced after 5 pm.
From Karnataka, former PM was elected to Rajya Sabha unopposed
The ruling NDA, which enjoys a comfortable majority in the Lok Sabha, wants more representation in the Upper House to sail major Bills through. NDA needs some 30 seats more to pass laws, without any hindrance. In Karnataka, where four seats were up for grabs, former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda, Congress' Mallikarjun Kharge, and BJP's Eranna Kadadi and Ashok Gasti, were elected unopposed.
Made for coronavirus: EC released new rules for conducting polls
The elections, being held in the middle of a pandemic, forced EC to come up with a new set of rules. As per the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), separate routes and waiting areas were to be created at the polling stations for MLAs, who are coronavirus positive or are suspected to have contracted the infection. The premises have to be thoroughly sanitized.
Paramedical team present at booths; masks, sanitizers kept
Paramedical teams were also deployed at polling stations. The guidelines also mandated that masks, gloves, and sanitizers must be present at 4-5 spots. As he entered a polling booth today to cast his vote, Congress' Ashok Gehlot, Chief Minister of Rajasthan, tweeted, "Reached Vidhan Sabha for Rajya Sabha Elections. All health protocols have been followed for the safety of all legislators. (sic)"
With deflated strength in Gujarat, can Congress secure seats?
In the last couple of weeks, several MLAs switched sides, denting hopes of their parent parties. The biggest such switch happened in Gujarat, where eight MLAs quit Congress since March. BJP fielded Abhay Bharadwaj, Ramilaben Bara, and Narhari Amin for the elections in four seats, and Congress gave tickets to Shaktisinh Gohil and Bharatsinh Solanki. None have the numbers to make all candidates win.
After MLAs quit, resort politics made a return
Congress has 65 members in the 182-member Assembly. After the setback, it shifted its MLAs to resorts in Gujarat and neighboring Rajasthan, where it is in power. BJP has 103 members. Each candidate needs 34 first-preference votes to win.
Jolted by Scindia's switch, Congress hoping to win one seat
Madhya Pradesh is another state where polls have piqued interest. This is the first major political event in the state after Congress' beloved Jyotiraditya Scindia quit the party to join rival BJP. Three seats went into polls with former CM Kamal Nath being confident of scooping one away. "It is very clear that we will win one seat in the Rajya Sabha," Nath said.
Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan cast his vote
यतो धर्मः ततो जयः— Shivraj Singh Chouhan (@ChouhanShivraj) June 19, 2020
आज विधानसभा पहुंचकर राज्यसभा निर्वाचन के लिए मताधिकार का प्रयोग किया। हम सब विजय के प्रति आश्वस्त हैं। pic.twitter.com/xwns1OHNGG
Gehlot claimed BJP offered over Rs. 25 crore to MLAs
In Rajasthan, Congress saw it only safe to send its MLAs to a resort, to avoid horse-trading by BJP. Gehlot claimed the opposition party was offering Rs. 25-30 crore to MLAs. Three seats went into polls. While Congress nominated KC Venugopal and Neeraj Dangi, BJP fielded Rajendra Gehlot and Onkar Singh Lakhawat. Congress has 125 MLAs' support, including independents. BJP has 72 MLAs.
In Manipur, BJP government ran into trouble
Manipur's polls also got interesting after nine MLAs of the BJP-led coalition quit, enabling Congress' no-confidence motion against Chief Minister N Biren Singh. BJP gave a ticket to Manipur's titular king, Leisemba Sanajaoba, and Congress fielded T Mangi Babu. For two Jharkhand's seats, JMM supremo Shibu Soren, Congress' Shahzada Anwar, and BJP's Deepak Prakash are contesting. Meghalaya Democratic Alliance's WR Kharlukhi is up against Congress' Kennedy Khyriem.