The Congress went to the Supreme Court today to try and stop the use of the NOTA or None Of The Above option in the Rajya Sabha polls next week. The top court will consider the opposition party’s request tomorrow.
“There is no constitutional provision for NOTA in the Rajya Sabha polls and no order from the Election Commission,” Congress leader and senior lawyer Kapil Sibal said in court, asking for an urgent hearing on its petition.
The Congress has also approached the Election Commission, which, however, has said NOTA is not a “new direction” and was introduced in 2014.
The party’s objection to NOTA is being seen in the context of its prestige battle in Gujarat, Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s aide Ahmed Patel is seeking another Rajya Sabha term from the state.
Six lawmakers have quit the Congress and to prevent more defections, the party flew over 40 legislators to Bengaluru, where they are staying in a luxury resort. Desperately trying to keep its flock together, the party has accused Gujarat’s ruling BJP of trying every trick possible to break the Congress and poach its lawmakers ahead of the Rajya Sabha polls and also the state election later this year.
The Congress alleges that NOTA, which will be available for the first time in a Rajya Sabha election, is an attempt to influence the result in Gujarat.
If a lawmaker defies the party and votes for someone else or uses NOTA, he cannot be disqualified.
The party is free to take disciplinary action like expelling the member, who will still remain a lawmaker and his vote cannot be cancelled, according to Election Commission rules.
In Rajya Sabha polls, legislators have to show their ballot paper to an authorised party agent before putting it in ballot box.
“The use of NOTA in an indirect election is contrary to the mandate of the Constitution, the Representation of the People Act and election rules,” the Congress insists. Its leaders have been trying to press the point home.
Mr Sibal tweeted: “Surprised by the timing of the Election Commission’s decision mandating NOTA
for Rajya Sabha elections. Nice (N) of (O) them (T) Amit Shah (A).”
“First Rajya Sabha election was postponed. Second NOTA was permitted post notification. Reasons best known to the Election Commission,” tweeted Ahmed Patel.