RS elections in Gujarat: Oppn protests over NOTA

RSTV Bureau

The Rajya Sabha was rocked by opposition protests over an Election Commission (EC) notification that provides the MLAs the ‘None of the Above’ (NOTA) option in the vote for the elections to the Upper House from the state of Gujarat.

The uproar over NOTA came in a day after Gujarat State Assembly Secretary announced that Rajya Sabha elections scheduled in the state will contain the option.

“As per the directions issued by the Election Commission of India in 2013, NOTA option will be printed on the ballot paper,” said the Secretary, Gujarat Assembly, D M Patel.

Quoting Patels’s order, Congress leader Anand Sharma said the decision to provide the NOTA option had been made without amending the Constitution or the law as per the direction of the Election Commission.

“It vitiates the election… Constitution has not been amended. Representation of People Act has not been amended. NOTA has been introduced…unless Constitution is amended, how this can be done,” Sharma asked.

Deputy leader of the Congress Anand Sharma speaking in Rajya Sabha

Deputy leader of
the Congress Anand Sharma speaking in Rajya Sabha

He said the vacancies are notified by the House and asked how a new provision could be introduced in between.

“If a change required amending legislation, it has to be done by Parliament, ” Sharman said.

Chairman M Hamid Ansari suggested that the matter is taken up with the Election Commission and tried to proceed with the Question Hour.

However, the opposition kept on raising the issue inside and outside the house too.

The leader of the House, Arun Jaitley said that from what he understood, there was a Supreme Court judgment which provided for the NOTA option.

“The judgment came several years before this government came to power. The Election Commission pursuant to that judgement had issued some notification under Article 324. Article 324 covers all election in this country and therefore that’s a circular which they issued, not now, but earlier,” Jaitley said.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley speaking in Rajya Sabha

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley speaking in Rajya Sabha

Meanwhile, an Election Commission official, on the condition of anonymity, said that a provision to have the NOTA option in the Rajya Sabha polls came in to force in 2014 after a Supreme Court order said that NOTA button should be installed on electronic voting machines.

The official also pointed out that MLAs of a particular party have to show their marked ballot papers to the authorized agent of the party before putting it in the ballot box.

Biennial elections to three Rajya Sabha seats are scheduled for polling on August 8.

Of the total 11 RS members from the state, the term of three–Irani and Dilipbhai Pandya (both BJP) and Patel—is ending on August 18.