Ahead of Gujarat Rajya Sabha Election, the ball is very much in Shankersinh Vaghela's court

Vinash kale viprit buddhi (wisdom vanishes when doomsday approaches) — few saw this 21 July birthday wail of maverick Congress septuagenarian Shankersinh Vaghela beyond the curse of a forlorn soldier when he called it quits.

It took exactly seven days for the Congress to realise what Vaghela, fondly called Bapu, meant when three MLAs resigned to join the BJP. Before the party could comprehend, three more left. And like a three-act suspense play, they quit in instalments and not together, creating more suspense about how many more were in queue.

File image of Shankarsinh Vaghela. PTI

File image of Shankarsinh Vaghela. PTI

On D-day, it is Bapu again who holds the key to the suspense. Vaghela, his MLA son Mahendrasinh and five others have emerged as the proverbial Secret Seven to veritably decide the fate of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s most trusted lieutenant Ahmed Patel seeking a fifth term in the Rajya Sabha.

Here’s how: The Congress had 57 legislators, of whom six left on 28 and 29 July, leaving 51. A Congress in panic whisked 44 MLAs away to Bengaluru, leaving seven others back home. They were the Secret Seven.

Patel, who needs 45, declared on Monday that besides the 44-member Bengaluru team, two MLAs from the NCP and one from the Janata Dal (United), were with him. So he had 47, enough to ensure a victory. Hours later, a jolt came when NCP legislator Kandhal Jadeja announced he had instructions from the top to vote for the BJP. It came down to 45, and at last count, there was no surety of the lone JD-U MLA, the maverick tribal leader Chhotubhai Vasava. This brings Patel back to 44, assuming that all of them are firmly with him.

So, the ball is in the court of the Secret Seven of Vaghela. This is what he meant when he announced that he would resign as an MLA only after the Rajya Sabha election, even though he put in his papers as the Leader of the Opposition and quit the Congress. He even later said, "Ahmed bhai is my friend since 1977 and my vote is reserved for him."

Patel realised the situation when he told the media on Monday that the "doors are always open after the Rajya Sabha election" for Vaghela, for talks. Asked if the party was now willing to consider Bapu’s demands, Patel told IANS late in the night, "I meant we are always open to talks, even earlier we were, the doors are open."

Although he has been denying it, Vaghela’s principal demand was that he made the chief ministerial candidate for the December Assembly elections and be handed all decisions. This was not acceptable to the Congress and nothing less was acceptable to Vaghela. So he quit. But, he ensured the party came to its knees before him. And so, "the doors are open".

Updated Date: Aug 08, 2017 07:57 AM

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