AICC Keeps Fingers Crossed on Eve of Patel Re-election Bid
NCP and JDU extend support to Patel but 1 MLA says voting for BJP
Congress claims it is touch with 2 BJP MLAs too Our Political Bureau
New Delhi: On the eve of the highvoltage Rajya Sabha elections in Gujarat, in which Sonia Gandhi’s politicalsecretaryAhmedPatelisfacing an all-out effort by the BJP to defeat him, the Congress central leadership is keeping its fingers crossed.
The party received NCP’s official support on Monday but later in the day one of its two MLAs said that he will vote for BJP. Given the highly fluctuating number-games, the unpredictable effect of ‘Nota factor’ and the possibility of cross-voting Congress circles are edgy, though its leaders said they have the numbers to make Patel survive the biggest political test of his four-decade career.
Adding to the suspense, rebel Congress leader Shankarsinh Vaghela sounded ambiguous, keeping Congress and BJP guessing with which side the crafty veteran would ink the deal at the last moment.
GivenPatelisthemostcrucial‘mover and shaker’ of the Sonia Gandhi establishment, it’s strategically important for the AICC that he scrapes through. On the other hand, the importancethecontesthasacquiredhas become evident from the fact that many in the New Delhi’s political circles are perceiving this as an ‘Amit Shah Vs Ahmed Patel’ fight, as they claimbothhavebeenlockedinnot-sosecretpoliticalandpersonalfightsfor quite some time. Political circles in Delhi also feel BJP’s all-out bid to trip Patelismeanttosettheatmospherics for the December assembly polls in Gujarat with the BJP facing resentment of the Patel community.
WhileBJPpresidentAmitShahand UniontextileandI&BministerSmriti Irani are sure to win their seats, the fightisforthethirdbetweenPateland Congressrebel-turned-BJPcandidate Balwantsinh Rajput. With a minimum of 45 votes required for Patel to win,theCongresscampispitchingits hope on 44 party MLAs (after desertion of some MLAs belonging to the Vaghela camp) who have returned to Gujarat from a Bangalore resort, one of the two NCP MLAs and one MLA each of JDU and Gujarat Parivartan Party, making it a total of 47, on paper. The worrying factor, however, is whether Vaghela has ‘sleeper cells’ among the 44 MLAs. The Congress camp also claimed that it is in touch with a couple of BJP MLAs too. “Our MLAs are very committed as theydidnotleaveeventheirhomeson the occasion of Rakshabandhan, although we were keen to make every possible arrangement. They are not ready to go anywhere because they want to cast their votes first. I am going to win and BJP’s one candidate will lose…The BJP not only wants a Congress free India, but they want to remove SC and ST reservations and wants a minority free House,” Patel said in Ahmedabad. His comment on reservation is believed to be targeted onSC/STMLAsonbothsides.
On his part, Vaghela chose to keep the suspense alive. He told a TV news channel, “each and every voter is an owner of his vote. I have a good relations with Ahmedbhai Patel. It is for meandAhmedPateltodecidewhatto do and what not to do,” he said.