New Delhi: 

Voting is taking place today for two Rajya Sabha seats in Gujarat, vacated by the BJP’s Amit Shah and Smriti Irani, who were elected to the Lok Sabha in the recent national polls.
The ruling BJP has fielded External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Juglaji Thakor in the two seats. The Congress has nominated Chandrika Chudasama and Gaurav Pandya. The votes will be counted this evening.

Given its strength in the 182-member Assembly, the BJP is set to win both seats for which voting is being held separately. The Congress had objected to the separate elections, arguing that it will help the BJP win both seats. The party hoped that in case of the by-polls being held simultaneously on both seats, it had a chance to win one.

The Congress’s appeal in the matter was also rejected by the Supreme Court, which said courts cannot intervene after the Election Commission has issued a notification for polls, and suggested the party file an “election petition” after election is over.

The BJP has 100 lawmakers and the Congress has 71. Other legislators eligible to cast their vote are two from the Bharatiya Tribal Party, one from the NCP and an Independent.

Since elections on the two seats will be held separately, a candidate needs a simple 50 per cent of the votes to win. In today’s vote, each candidate needs 88 votes to secure victory.

Legislators vote in Rajya Sabha elections in what is called “proportional representation” with the single transferable vote system. Each lawmaker’s vote is counted only once. The lawmakers list their order of preference for each candidate. The candidate that is the first choice for more voters, wins.

According to election officials, three legislators will not be able to vote as they were disqualified. Four seats are vacant after their legislators resigned after election to the Lok Sabha.

Ahead of the voting, Congress lawmakers gathered at a resort in Banaskantha district on Thursday and held a mock vote. Around 65 Congress legislators were moved to the resort on Wednesday night to prevent what they alleged attempts to “poach” lawmakers by the BJP.

The party’s Alpesh Thakor and Dhavalsinh Zala skipped the meeting and four others had taken permission from party leaders to remain absent, said state Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi.

Mr Thakor and Mr Zala had refused to travel to the resort and had openly criticised the party.

Amit Shah’s Rajya Sabha seat was declared vacant on May 28 after he won his first Lok Sabha election from Gandhinagar in Gujarat in the national election. Smriti Irani’s seat was notified as vacant a day later; she defeated Congress president Rahul Gandhi in his constituency Amethi in Uttar Pradesh.

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