Sonia crony Ahmed Patel’s fate hangs in the balance
Three of the 44 Gujarat MLAs lodged in a resort near Bengaluru have already demanded to return home; winning RS seat gets tougher for the party
Sonia Gandhi’s right-hand man Ahmed Patel needs 43 votes to win his Rajya Sabha election in Gujarat on August 8. Forty-four Congress MLAs have been herded into a resort named Eagleton near Bengaluru, protected from the all-out poaching offensive launched by the BJP in multiple states. With six MLAs already having flown its coop of 57 since the ouster of strong man Shankersinh Vaghela, the Congress is fighting rearguard action to ensure the reelection of Ahmed Patel, whose loss, should it happen, would be a severe blow to the grand old party’s standing across the country.
Karnataka, an old theatre of antipoaching campaigns, is ruled by the Congress but the party’s worries have increased since the Gujarat MLAs were flown in and penned in early Saturday morning. Some of the MLAs are fuming that they have been separated from their mobile phones, which they ostensibly need to keep in touch with their constituents back home. Three MLAs from south Gujarat — Dharshibhai Khanpura from Kankrej, Mahesh Patel from Palan- pur and Govabhai Rabari from Deesa — were indignant enough to demand to be flown back. Sources say they might be moved to Kodagu. “These constituencies were hit by flooding. These MLAs want to talk to officials in their constituencies but the resort manager took away their phones,” a source in Eagleton said.
Reports say four senior Congress leaders were left in Gujarat to plan strategy to steer Ahmed Patel home in the August 8 elections. Two of them are guaranteed for the BJP candidates Amit Shah and Smiriti Irani. The third is coveted by Sonia aide Ahmed Patel, but the BJP has fielded a recent Congress defector as a challenger. Given that 11 MLAs crossvoted for the NDA presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind, and Shankarsinh Vaghela and his son Mahendrasinh Vaghela were ousted and six MLAs have resigned or defected, Ahmed Patel’s anxieties are at an all-time high. Sources said as Energy Minister D K Shivakumar is abroad, his brother and Bengaluru Rural MP D K Suresh, Congress MLC C M Lingappa, and party leader Saleem Ahmad are handling operations at Eagleton.
THE Congress has herded 44 of its MLAs from Gujarat to Bengaluru ahead of the August 8 Rajya Sabha elections, in order to avoid poaching by the BJP. But its worries have not ended. There’s already a rebellion brewing in Eagleton resort, where the MLAs are housed after they arrived in Bengaluru from Ahmedabad in the wee hours of Saturday. The legislators are fuming at their mobile phones being confiscated by the resort manager. They even had a verbal exchange over the issue.
The MLAs are angry at not being able to keep in touch with their constituencies at a time when their home state, especially south Gujarat, is reeling under floods.
Three MLAs from South Gujarat, including Dharshibhai Khanpura from Kankrej, Mahesh Patel from Palanpur and Govabhai Rabari from Deesa constituency, expressed their displeasure at not being allowed to use their phones and demanded to return home. “These constituencies are most hit by flooding. MLAs from these places wanted to speak to people and officials in their constituency. But the resort manager Naresh Rawal who took away their phones refused to return them to the MLAs. Irked by this, MLAs had a heated argument with him,” sources said.
The three MLAs who wanted to return to Gujarat may be moved to Kodagu, said sources.
Meanwhile, senior Congress leaders from Gujarat are expected to fly down to meet the disgruntled MLAs and take a call.
The MLAs were brought to Bengaluru in the backdrop of six legislators quitting the party to join the BJP over the past two days. With Ahmed Patel, political secretary to AICC president Sonia Gandhi, set to contest the election to a Rajya Sabha seat from Gujarat, the party high command is determined to ensure his victory.
The Congress had earlier suffered an embarrassment with cross-voting by a section of its legislators in Gujarat during the presidential elections.
With recent defections, the Congress’s strength in the 182-member Gujarat Assembly is down to 51. Elections to three Rajya Sabha seats from Gujarat is scheduled on August 8.
Sources in the party said Energy Minister D K Shivakumar is tasked with looking after the MLAs but as he is away to Singapore on personal work, his younger brother and Bengaluru Rural MP D K Suresh, Congress MLC C M Lingappa, and party leader Saleem Ahmad who is also additional special representative in New Delhi from Karnataka, are taking care of Gujarat MLAs at the resort in Mysuru Road, 22 km away from Bengaluru.
MLAs from places, worst hit by floods, wanted to speak to people and officials in their constituency. But the resort manager who took away their phones refused to return them. Irked by this, the MLAs had a heated argument with him Sources
Congress MLAs from Gujarat at Eagleton Resort, near Bengaluru, where about 44 Congress MLAs are lodged |