Shukla, whose term in the upper House is drawing to a close, was fielded by panicky party managers after concern that the original candidate, Naranbhai Rathwa, may not have all his papers in order. It is understood that Rathwa’s “no dues” certificate from Parliament — he is a former Lok Sabha MP — was not available.
Worried that BJP may jump in to take advantage if the Congress nominee was knocked out, the party sought to rush Shukla to Gujarat. However, the race was impossibly tight as even with normal air connectivity, it would have been difficult to file papers by 3pm. Later, Congress members said Rathwa’s papers are in order and he has filed them. They said the no-dues from Parliament is not required but the party decided to play safe but could not explain why nominations were left almost to the last hour.
In the meanwhile, BJP fielded a third candidate, former state minister Kiritsinh Rana, setting the stage for another tussle after the dramatic win of Congress leader Ahmed Patel last August. After Parshottam Rupala and Mansukh Mandaviya filed nominations, Rana pitched his candidacy fuelling speculation of yet another cut-throat election.
A Congress-supported independent candidate, P K Valera (retd IAS) also filed his nominations papers on Monday. Elections to four RS seats will be held on March 23. In the past, all these four seats were held by BJP candidates. Following BJP’s dwindling strength to 99 in state assembly, RS MP from Gujarat Arun Jaitley moved to UP while Shankar Vegad wrote a letter saying he does not wish to contest the elections.