In Balwantsinh Rajput, BJP has key to increase Rajya Sabha count from Gujarat, defeat Ahmed Patel
The latest resignations involving Congress MLAs in Gujarat is part of BJP plan to pin down Congress leader and strategist Ahmed Patel, the only Muslim parliamentarian from the state
After Bihar, Congress, in all likelihood, is set to receive another jolt in the forthcoming Rajya Sabha elections. This time it's Ahmed Patel, the confidante and political advisor to Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
Ahmed is contesting for a fifth term in the Rajya Sabha.
The trouble for Gujarat Congress started last week when senior Congress leader Shankersinh Vaghela resigned from the party and announced his resignation as the Leader of the Opposition from the Gujarat Assembly. Vaghela, however has not announced his resignation as an MLA, thus continuing to hold the right to vote during the Rajya Sabha election.
With Vaghela, or Bapu, as he is popularly known, declaring his dissent for Congress, three other party MLAs — Balwantsinh Rajput, Tejashri Patel and PI Patel — have also resigned from Congress. Interestingly, Rajput, former chief whip of Congress, and a relative of Vaghela, is now BJP's third candidate for the forthcoming elections of the Upper House. All of this has left Ahmed as the lone Congress candidate in the Rajya Sabha election.
With a strength of 121 MLAs in the 182-seat Gujarat Assembly, BJP is confident of sending party president Amit Shah as well as information and broadcasting minister Smriti Irani to the Upper House. The proposal of Rajput as the third candidate is to ensure that Ahmed gets a tough fight in the upcoming election.
After the resignation of the three MLAs from Congress on Thursday, the party's strength has come down to 54, a figure which should be enough for Ahmed to get through comfortably. Ahmed has to secure just 47 votes to ensure his entry to the Upper House. But considering 11 Congress MLAs cross-voted during the recently-concluded presidential election, a repeat might be in the offing. It's likely that Ahmed will not be able to secure the required 47 votes.
The BJP, which is already facing a crunch of numbers in the Upper House is going all out to ensure that they get the maximum numbers from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's home state. But that may not be the only objective.
Ahmed is credited with Congress’ performance in the 2004 and 2009 General Elections to Lok Sabha. The only Muslim parliamentarian from Gujarat, Ahmed is considered a troubleshooter for Congress, and ensured that he remains a troublemaker for BJP. Though Ahmed has remained out of government and maintained a low profile, he is a known strategist for the party and has always remained at the helm of affairs in Congress.
For BJP, ensuring that Ahmed loses the Rajya Sabha election is not only a matter of adding numbers in the Upper House, but also a prestige battle of pinning down the enemy.
During the Rajya Sabha election, which is scheduled to take place on 8 August, the BJP will try and ensure that a few more deflections come from Congress.
"The BJP is also hoping that Vaghela's son and an MLA, Mahendrasinh Vaghela, Vaghela sympathiser Raghavji Patel will also vote in favour of BJP candidate Rajput," said a senior state Congress leader.
In the days to come, political hobnobbing will surely dominate the headlines in Gujarat. It remains to be seen if Ahmed will be able to sail through amidst all the resignations and dissensions. For BJP Ahmed's defeat in the Rajya Sabha election would mean a big political victory not only in terms of a number, but also in terms of a statement.
Rawat, who holds the forest, environment, labour and employment portfolios in the Uttarakhand cabinet, had left Congress to join BJP in 2016
Elections for the 403 Assembly constituencies in Uttar Pradesh will be held in seven phases starting 10 February, the Election Commission said
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