Filing of nominations for four Rajya Sabha seats from Gujarat witnessed high drama and controversy on Monday, with the number of nominees finally ending at six.
Taking advantage of the confusion in the Congress ranks due to doubts about validity of the nomination papers of former Union Minister Naranbhai Rathwa, the ruling BJP quickly fielded a third candidate in addition to its two re-nominated candidates, Union Ministers Parshottam Rupala and Mansukh Mandavia.
Former state minister Kiritsinh Rana would now be the BJP’s third candidate though current legislature arithmetic can ensure sure victory for only two of its nominees for the four Rajya Sabha seats falling vacant.
Though the Congress high command announced its two candidates for the Rajya Sabha only on Sunday night in order to avoid any dissent, the trouble cropped up with doubts about validity of all the papers to be submitted by former Union Minister Naranbhai Rathwa, a tribal leader who had earlier represented the Chhotaudepur Lok Sabha constituency in eastern Gujarat.
Fearing the loss of one Rajya Sabha seat in case Rathwa’s nomination is found invalid, the Congress high command quickly asked senior member Rajiv Shukla to rush from Delhi to Gujarat to file his papers by 3 p.m, the closure time.
But Shukla could not reach Ahmedabad as its airport remains closed from 10 a.m to 7p.m. for resurfacing of its runway, a second time in two years.
In 2016 too, the airport remained closed from April to October for the same purpose. It could not be independently ascertained whether the second time resurfacing of the runway here in just two years was designed to prevent landing of any special flight during daytime on this crucial day.
With no way for Shukla to reach here before the close of nominations at 3 p.m, the Congress leadership asked retired bureaucrat P K Valera to file his nomination as independent candidate.