The counting for election to six Rajya Sabha seats from Maharashtra was delayed for several hours on Friday as the BJP questioned the validity of ballots cast by three MLAs of the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi, or MVA, coalition, alleging that rules were violated. The counting of votes, which was to start at 5 pm on Friday, had not started even after midnight.
The MVA, too, sought to invalidate two votes, one by a BJP MLA and another by an independent.
The BJP challenged the votes cast by cabinet ministers Jitendra Awhad (NCP), Yashomati Thakur (Congress) and Suhas Kande (Shiv Sena).
The BJP alleged Mr Awhad and Mr Thakur gave their ballots to their party agents instead of only showing them, while Mr Kande allegedly showed his ballot to two different agents.
“Counting cannot be started until the Election Commission gives its decision because the winning quota cannot be determined till the number of valid votes is finalised,” a constitutional expert told news agency PTI.
Maharashtra has six Rajya Sabha seats. The BJP fielded three candidates, the Shiv Sena two and the Nationalist Congress Party, or NCP, and the Congress one each.
A BJP delegation including Union Ministers Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Jitendra Singh and Arjun Ram Meghwal, however, met the Election Commission after polling ended and sought a probe and cancellation of three votes.
In its memorandum to the Election Commission, the BJP said the Commission had stated in the matter involving the election of Congress leader Ahmed Patel in Gujarat in 2017 that the very act of showing the ballot paper to anyone other than the election agent of one’s party invalidates the vote.
Following the BJP’s representation, the Congress also demanded that the Election Commission invalidate the votes of BJP MLA Sudhir Mungantiwar and independent MLA Ravi Rana.
State Congress chief Nana Patole in a letter to the Chief Election Commissioner said Mr Mungantiwar “vitiated the voting procedure” by showing his ballot paper to people other than his own party’s election agents.
Mr Rana openly displayed the Hanuman Chalisa and sought to influence other voters, Mr Patole alleged.
A total of 285 MLAs cast their votes on Friday in Maharashtra. There are seven candidates against six vacancies, leading to a contest on the sixth seat.
The BJP fielded Union Minister Piyush Goyal, former state minister Anil Bonde and former MP Dhananjay Mahadik.
The Shiv Sena fielded Sanjay Raut and Sanjay Pawar. The NCP fielded Praful Patel while the Congress fielded Imran Pratapgarhi.
The quota of first preference votes needed by each candidate to win is 41 as the total number of voters came down to 285 from 288.
In Karnataka, three seats have gone to the BJP and one to the Congress. HD Kumaraswamy’s Janata Dal Secular is out, sources said.
The Congress has won three of the four Rajya Sabha seats in Rajasthan with cross-voting by BJP members. One seat has gone to the BJP.
In Rajya Sabha 57 seats across 15 states had fallen vacant. The maximum, 11, are in Uttar Pradesh. It is followed by Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu (6 each), Bihar (5), Karnataka, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh (4 each), Madhya Pradesh and Odisha (3 each) Punjab, Jharkhand, Haryana, Chhattisgarh and Telangana (2 each) and one seat from Uttarakhand. Forty-one candidates were elected unopposed.
With inputs from PTI