Voting has ended for the high- stakes Rajya Sabha elections from Gujarat, where BJP's Amit Shah and Smriti Irani are set to sail through but the fate of Congress party's Ahmed Patel hangs in balance, thanks to infighting and resignations. "All the 176 MLAs have voted... Voting is over," state Chief Electoral Officer B B Swain declared, hours before the deadline for the poll to close. The counting of votes will be taken up after 5 pm. After the voting was completed, Congress leader Ashok Gehlot claimed that Patel will comfortably win as he has the required numbers of 45 votes, though he accepted that one of the party MLAs, who was part of the 44 legislators huddled together for over a week in Bengaluru, has cross-voted. However, Gehlot claimed that Patel has got two more votes -- one each of the NCP and the JD (U) -- assuring that numbers are in his favour. Patel suffered a blow when former Congress stalwart Shankersinh Vaghela, after casting his vote, told reporters he went against him. "As Ahmed Patel is going to lose, I have not given my vote to him," Vaghela said. The Congress has 51 MLAs in the House after six of them had resigned following a rebellion by Vaghela. Out of the 51 MLAs, seven of Vaghela group (including Vaghela) had not gone to Bengaluru but the remaining 44 had gone there.
Technically these seven MLAs are still with the Congress, including Vaghela as he had not resigned as MLA. Gehlot accepted that all the seven MLAs of Vaghela group, including Raghavji Patel and Dharmendrasinh Jadeja, have cross-voted. The Gujarat Assembly will elect three MPs to the Rajya Sabha, with each candidate requiring 45 votes to win. Since the BJP has 121 seats, the election of Shah and Irani is a foregone conclusion. The third seat has become a virtual head to head fight against BJP's Balwantsinh Rajput. After accounting for 90 votes to get Shah and Irani elected, the BJP will be left with 31 surplus votes for Rajput, who will require the backing of rebel MLAs of the Congress and smaller parties to win. Until recently, Rajput was the Congress' chief whip in the House before defecting to the BJP. It is after a gap of about two decades that a contest is taking place in Rajya Sabha polls in Gujarat, where official nominees of major parties used to get elected unopposed. According to Election Commission officials, a candidate would require one-fourth of the total number of votes plus one to get elected. This would mean a contestant has to muster 45 votes. The MLAs have to give their preferential votes indicating first choice, second, third, fourth (as per number of candidates) or they can choose NOTA, they said.
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