EC rejects opposition's demand to remove NOTA in Gujarat Rajya Sabha polls

The Supreme Court has refused to stay the use of the NOTA (none of the above) option in the upcoming Rajya Sabha elections in Gujarat.

Explaining the contention, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, the Minister of State of Parliamentary Affairs said that the parties issue whip for these elections and NOTA option goes against the nature of the whip.

The bench also questioned Congress as to why it had not challenged the notification earlier and waited till the eve of the elections when the poll panel had issued the notification in January 2014.

Sibal told the apex court that there is no statutory provision with regard to NOTA in the Constitution.

Following Congress veteran Shankersinh Vaghela's exit, six more MLAs followed suit putting the party in a crisis ahead of the RS polls which has now assumed greater political significance.

Shah, who has filed his nomination as one of three BJP candidates for three seats from Gujarat is nearly certain to win, given the large number of BJP MLAs in the state assembly who will be voting.

To prevent any more defections, the Congress has coralled its Gujarat MLAs in a resort in Bengaluru.

The Congress leader also said that his election should not be linked to Sonia Gandhi as he is not contesting the elections as Sonia Gandhi's secretary but as a Congress candidate.

The Supreme Court, however, agreed to examine constitutional validity of EC's notification to give an option of NOTA in elections.

A three-judge bench presided over by Justice Dipak Misra questioned senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing petitioner party chief whip Shailesh Maubhai Parmar, over the delay in challenging January 24, 2014 notifications by Election Commission in August 2017.

The counsel for the respondents, Election Commission said: "How can the petitioner say that no notice was given?" If you do not stay it, it will be a recipe for corruption.

As per poll panel, the directions to use NOTA in Rajya Sabha elections were enforced in January 2014 after the Supreme Court in 2013 made it mandatory to have NOTA option in EVMs.

"Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel took to twitter saying that the BJP is on an unprecedented witch-hunt to win one Rajya Sabha (RS) seat in Gujarat".

In view of the apex court's judgement in the "Kuldip Nayar versus Union of India", (2006), the party MLAs are bound to vote for the candidates affliated to the political party, it added. For Patel, who has been a Rajya Sabha MP from Bharuch since 1993, a loss in his home state would severely hurt his and the party's prospects in the Gujarat assembly elections due this year.

Vanessa Coleman