The counting of votes for the Rajya Sabha elections was on Friday halted in Maharashtra and Haryana over allegations that MLAs violated model code for voting by showing and handing over their ballots to unauthorised persons, according to officials.
The counting was stopped in Maharashtra after the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alleged that three MLAs of the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) —Cabinet ministers Jitendra Awhad, Yashomati Thakur, and Shiv Sena MLA Suhas Kande— violated the model code for voting.
The BJP has alleged that Awhad and Thakur handed over their ballots to their party agents instead of only showing them the ballots, while Kande showed his ballot to two different agents.
A Maharashtra BJP leader said, "We have filed an appeal before the Election Commission of India (ECI), seeking that their votes be held invalid."
The counting has been put on hold in Haryana for identical reasons. The BJP and the Independent candidate backed by it have urged the Election Commission to cancel the votes of two Congress MLAs.
BJP nominee Krishan Lal Panwar and Independent candidate Kartikeya Sharma shot off a missive to the EC, alleging Congress MLAs Kiran Choudhary and BB Batra showed their ballot papers to unauthorised persons after marking them and that the episodes were "duly captured" on cameras.
The counting has been put on hold in view of the complaint made to the EC, sources in Chandigarh told PTI, adding further action will depend on the directions given by the EC.
"Permission is needed from the Election Commission for the counting. Officials have sent an email to the ECI seeking the permission. It should be granted in some time," said Shiv Sena minister Eknath Shinde in Mumbai.
"Counting cannot be started until the ECI gives its decision because winning quota cannot be determined till the number of valid votes is finalised," said a Constitution expert.
The Congress has, meanwhile, approached the EC in New Delhi accusing the BJP of trying to defeat the process of free and fair election to the Rajya Sabha in Haryana and demanded immediate declaration of results.
A delegation of Congress leaders comprising Pawan Kumar Bansal, Vivek Tankha and Ranjeet Ranjan met the Election Commission and handed over a memorandum by Ajay Maken, its candidate.
Maken urged Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar to order declaration of the results without delay after rejecting the "frivolous" objection by the BJP over alleged violation of the secrecy of the ballot.
The Congress candidate claimed the returning officer has already rejected the objections about the votes of its MLAs Kiran Choudhary and BB Batra, saying there has been no breach of secrecy of the ballot papers.
Polling was held on Friday for 16 Rajya Sabha seats — six in Maharashtra, four each in Karnataka and Rajasthan and two in Haryana.
Prominent among those in the fray are Union Ministers Nirmala Sitharaman and Piyush Goyal, Congress candidates Randeep Surjewala, Jairam Ramesh and Mukul Wasnik, and Shiv Sena's Sanjay Raut. All are expected to win without a hiccup.
(With PTI inputs)