The poll for three Rajya Sabha seats in Gujarat has assumed all the proportions of a national election, thanks to the fierce contest anticipated between the Congress’s Ahmed Patel and his former party colleague Balwantsinh Rajput, who skipped to the BJP last month. Here’s a 10-point guide to navigating all the twists and turns in this political saga.
After a gap of two decades, there’s a real in the Rajya Sabha polls in Gujarat. It used to be that official nominees of major parties would get elected unopposed. Not today. There are four contestants eyeing three Rajya Sabha seats in Gujarat.
They are BJP president Amit Shah, Union Minister Smriti Irani, Rajput and Patel.Patel is seeking a fifth term and it appeared it would be smooth sailing for me, until, that is, the BJP decided to field Congress rebel Rajput against him. Rajput was until recently the Congress party’s chief whip in the House. The winning candidate needs 45 votes for a victory.
Giving some anxious moments to the Congress is NCP MLA Kandhal Jadeja, who on Monday claimed the party high command has decided to support Rajput. The NCP has two MLAs in Gujarat.
Just like the Sharad Pawar-led NCP, the Nitish Kumar-led JD (U) has also decided to support the BJP candidates. The JD (U) has one MLA in the state. However, the Gujarat Parivartan Party is still backing Congress.
Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel is confident of winning today’s election despite what he says is a BJP conspiracy against him. “I have full confidence in my victory tomorrow (Tuesday) despite the BJP’s attempts and the numbers will surprise everyone,” he said on Monday.
Banking on Shah, Irani and Rajput, BJP’s state in-charge Bhupendra Yadav said all the three candidates of the party will win by a “very good margin”. Hinting at the ongoing political manoeuvring and a seesawing numbers game, he said the BJP will get three more votes than the number required for all its three candidates to win.
Veteran politician and former Gujarat chief minister Shankersinh Vaghela is tight-lipped on his choice of candidate for Gujarat’s Rajya Sabha polls. The former Congress leader, who announced his exit from the party on July 21, said he was no longer in touch with the Congress leadership, while maintaining that party nominee Patel remained his “friend.”
Despite the Supreme Court’s allowing the None of the Above option for the election, the state Congress maintained it would stick to the whip issued to its legislators to vote for the party’s official candidate, Patel.
In the 182-member Gujarat Assembly, the strength of the Congress has gone down to 51 from 57 after the departure of Vaghela and his supporters, while the BJP has 121 MLAs.
As per State Election Commission officials, a candidate requires one-fourth of the total number of votes, plus one, to get elected. This would mean a contestant has to muster 45 votes. The EC officials said the MLAs have to give their preferential votes indicating first choice, second, third, fourth (as per number of candidates) or they can choose NOTA.