By-elections to the six vacant Rajya Sabha seats in Gujarat, Bihar and Odisha will take place on July 5, the Election Commission has announced. The counting of votes will take place the same day, the poll body said, adding that the entire process will have to be completed till July 9.
Out of the six seats, two seats are vacant in Gujarat, one in Bihar and three in Odisha.
BJP leaders Smriti Irani and Amit Shah's election to the Lok Sabha have left two seats vacant from Gujarat. Their party colleague Ravi Shankar Prasad, a former Rajya Sabha member, won the polls from Bihar's Patna Sahib, necessitating a bypoll in the state.
In Odisha, while BJD leader Achutananda Samanta was elected to the Lok Sabha, his party colleague Pratap Keshari Deb was elected to the state assembly. Soumya Ranjan Patnaik resigned earlier this month.
It is speculated that External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, a surprise inclusion in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's cabinet, is likely to be elected to the Rajya Sabha from Gujarat. The former foreign secretary, who was sworn in as a union minister, would have to be elected from either houses of parliament within six months of his appointment to keep his post.
Consumer Affairs Minister Ramvilas Paswan, a BJP ally, may also get a Rajya Sabha berth from Gujarat
The poll body said the by-elections would be considered separate vacancies.
"It is further clarified that the vacancies for bye-elections to all Houses, including the Rajya Sabha, are considered as separate vacancies and separate notifications are issued and separate poll is taken for each of the vacancies although the programme schedule for the bye-elections may be common," the Election Commission said in the release.
The Congress had demanded that the two seats in Gujarat should go to polls simultaneously as holding the elections separately would be against the rules.
"This would be a mockery of our constitutional ethos. It would be completely contrary to conventions. Whenever there are two seats of a state going vacant, you have elections together. It is obvious to everybody that the purpose of that is to ensure there is a fair exercise of franchise of each MLA," party spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi had said.
"If you have one election today and one after two weeks, four weeks, six weeks then you will enable the ruling party MLAs (lawmakers) to simply cross 51 per cent in the assembly of Gujarat and elect (one) in the first round and (one) in the second round which is held after weeks," he had added.
The notifications for the polls will be issued on June 18, the last date for nomination is June 25. The last date for withdrawal of candidatures is June 28.
The BJP, which had been in minority in the Rajya Sabha, had to bring ordinances for many important bills as they couldn't be passed in the Upper House of parliament despite smooth sailing in the Lok Sabha, where the party had been in majority since 2014. However, after the party's stellar win in the recently concluded polls to the Lower House, it is only a matter of time that the BJP would be in an advantageous situation.