Just before the polling for four Rajya Seats in Gujarat began on Friday morning, two Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP) MLAs said that they would not cast their votes until they are given a written assurance about the welfare of tribals, migrants and Dalits.
Votes of BTP chief Chhotu Vasava and his son Mahesh Vasava are crucial for both the BJP and the Congress in this election.
"We will not give our votes unless and until we get a written assurance. We are an independent party, which keeps distance from both the BJP and the Congress," Mahesh Vasava told reporters.
"My father and I have decided not to cast our votes until we get an assurance about the implementation of schedule 5 of the Constitution and PESA Act. Although our votes are important, people whom we represent are more important to us," he added.
PESA Act refers to the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act.
"Despite repeated representation to both the parties in the past, they did nothing for the welfare of ST, SC, OBC, minority and migrant workers," he alleged.
"We will think about voting only after getting an assurance," Vasava said.
Both BJP and Congress are hopeful of getting those two crucial votes of the BTP.
Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said, "The BJP and its governments have done numerous things for the welfare of tribals. A separate ministry for tribal welfare was created when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the prime minister."
"The Gujarat government under Narendra Modi had spent crores on tribal-centric schemes. PESA Act came into effect in Gujarat under my rule. I am confident that the BTP will vote in BJP's favour," he said.
Gujarat Congress president Amit Chavda also expressed confidence that the BTP MLAs would support his party in the election.
"It was the Congress government at the Centre that had pushed forward the PESA Act. Our MLAs fought for its implementation inside and outside the Gujarat Assembly. Congress and BTP have a similar ideology and we are confident of getting their votes," he said.
The BJP, which has the strength of 103 in the Gujarat Assembly, requires two more votes for a comfortable victory of its all the three candidates. So for the BJP, the votes of the BTP are crucial.
But if these two votes go to Congress, the party may inch closer to victory on both the seats, but may not get an absolute majority to win the second seat.
Congress requires 70 votes and has 65 of its own and one Independent MLA, Jignesh Mewani, supporting them.
Rajya Sabha election for four seats in Gujarat became necessary as the BJP decided to field a third candidate, taking the number of candidates in the fray to five.
While the Congress has fielded Shaktisinh Gohil and Bharatsinh Solanki, the BJP has fielded Abhay Bhardwaj, Ramilaben Bara and Narhari Amin.