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Gujarat Rajya Sabha polls: Ahmed Patel's win has restored his place in state politics in key election year

The high-profile electoral battle for Gujarat's Rajya Sabha seats ultimately came down to a tussle between two strategists. And though BJP won two seats and Congress just one, it's the latter's Ahmed Patel who stands to gain more than the all-powerful BJP president Amit Shah.

But while the battle is over, the war goes on. Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani has hinted at taking the legal route to challenge the Election Commission's decision of not considering the votes of two rebel Congress MLAs. Assembly elections are due in Gujarat later this year, and the war bugle has sounded.

Ahmed Pate. PTI

Ahmed Pate. PTI

On Tuesday afternoon, BJP looked set to increase its tally in the Rajya Sabha, leaving Congress in tatters. Its MLAs were resigning and cross-voting, its allies were deserting — Congress was struggling to hold things together. So when Congress was hopping its 44 MLAs from one resort in Bengaluru to another one in Anand prior to the day of voting, one thing was clear — it didn't want to let go of Ahmed Patel's five-time seat in the Rajya Sabha, while BJP, which was set to clinch two seats from Gujarat, was keen on winning a third seat as well.

BJP's strength of 121 MLAs in the Gujarat Assembly meant Amit Shah and Smriti Irani were assured of Rajya Sabha seats. The third seat would see a battle between Patel and Balwantsinh Rajput, a crossover from Congress who was fielded by BJP.

So, the results mean that Amit Shah continues to remain all-powerful in his party, and also has the designation of Rajya Sabha MP added to his powers; but Patel's victory has ensured his supremacy in state politics and in the Congress' high command remains in place. Ahmed Patel has always had his way in the Gujarat Congress, and this win — which has come after a lot of challenges faced from within the party — may mean Sonia Gandhi's political aide has reinvented his footing in the party which seemed like slipping away from him. In an election year, this has ensured Patel will continue to have his way in the party.

With six resignations and rebellion plaguing the Congress prior to the Rajya Sabha elections, Patel will bring in his trusted allies at the helm of affairs in Gujarat politics and ensure complete control of the party, at least till the Assembly polls.

Patel has been the face of Gujarat politics in New Delhi and ensured that no other leader from the state has the kind of power and access that he retained for himself. This victory, which seemed difficult until the votes were tallied, has put forth his authority in matters of ticket distribution and recommending actions against MLAs.

Based on the final outcome of the results, on who voted for which candidate, Patel will also be in the forefront to rework estranged relations with allies, and ensure Gujarat Congress goes back to a position of reckoning. The party's strength before the polls was 56 but is down to 51 post the resignations. So, it is not only about keeping the flock together but also ensuring the party is at least able to capitalise the anti-BJP sentiment among Patidars, farmers and OBCs. On the other hand, a big task for him would be to counter Shankersinh Vaghela.

None of this will be anything new to a man who has been at the helm of party affairs in the state since decades. It's only that expectations from him as a strategist and leader have increased.

Updated Date: Aug 09, 2017 16:11 PM

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