Politics

In Wake of Defections, Congress Seeks to Stop Use of NOTA in Rajya Sabha Polls

EVM

Electronic voting machine. Credit: PTI

New Delhi: In the face of recent defections in Gujarat ahead of the Rajya Sabha elections, the Congress has approached the Supreme Court in an attempt to stop the use of the ‘none of the above’ (NOTA) option in next week’s polls. Meanwhile, the BJP approached the Election Commission to ask for the option not to be allowed in the upcoming election, NDTV reported.

“There is no constitutional provision for NOTA in the Rajya Sabha polls and no order from the Election Commission,” the Congress said in the Supreme Court. Congress leaders have also been saying that the use of NOTA in an indirect election is contrary to the mandate of the constitution.

Six MLAs in Gujarat have resigned from the Congress ahead of the Rajya Sabha polls. To prevent any further defections, the party on July 28 flew more than 40 of its MLAs to a resort in Bengaluru. A day later, acting on a complaint from the party alleging the BJP was misusing its power, the EC asked the state chief secretary for a report.

The Congress party also alleged that the use of NOTA, which is being allowed for the first time in a Rajya Sabha election, was to influence the result of the polls in Gujarat. The EC said that while the party would be free to take action against any MLA who does not vote for the party’s candidate, they would remain a lawmaker and their vote would not be cancelled.

Congress leaders have spoken out against this on social media as well.

The Congress has fielded senior leader Ahmed Patel as its candidate for the Rajya Sabha from Gujarat, and he can win the seat if 47 MLAs vote for him. However, his victory is not guaranteed, given that opposition presidential candidate Meira Kumar could garner only 49 of the then 57 Congress MLAs in the state assembly.

Senior Congress leader, Anand Sharma, who is also deputy leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, said that the EC cannot introduce NOTA without a Constitutional amendment, reported India Today.

Despite the NOTA being available during the polls, Congress said that it would issue a whip to all its MLAs to vote for Patel. “The whip will not give them (Congress MLAs) the option of second preference, that is NOTA in our case. If an MLA marks NOTA, he will be disqualified,” Gujarat Congress president Arjun Modhwadia said.