It is quite amazing that in a year of Assembly elections, it is the Rajya Sabha election which is getting more coverage in the state of Gujarat. To be more precise, it is just the prospect of the election of Ahmed Patel, the lieutenant of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, which has become the single most significant factor in the election scheduled for August 8.
The election to the Upper House has become a fierce encounter because it features two generals – Patel and Amit Shah, the president of the BJP. The run-up to the election has seen the use of money and muscle power along with hiding legislators and alleged misuse of agencies. The Congress is desperately resisting the BJP's relentless push for a Congress-Mukt Bharat and the tug-of-war is there for everybody to see.
The arithmetic of the Gujarat Rajya Sabha elections
The upcoming Rajya Sabha election is significant on two counts. First, the arithmetical part. The Gujarat Assembly has 182 members but with the resignation of six of the 51 Congress MLAs, the number has come down to 176. It means for a candidate to win the Rajya Sabha election, he/she has to get support of 45 members (176 divided by four, which is the number of candidates, plus one).
In case all the 51 Congress MLAs vote for Patel, he will not have any tough time to win yet another term in the Upper House. But if seven disseident members out of the 51 decide to cross-vote on August 8, Patel's tally would remain restricted to 44 and he will have the danger by losing it by a solitary vote unless backed by one of the remaining four non-Congress and non-BJP MLAs. The BJP has 121 members in the Assembly.
The political significance of the Gujarat Rajya Sabha elections
The second is the political part. The Congress has used all its might to safeguard those 40-something MLAs because it can't afford to see Patel losing the election. It is no wonder that the legislators were ferried to Karnataka, another Congress-ruled state to ensure that the support for Patel doesn't get diluted.
The cross-voting by Congress MLAs during the presidential election last month and the exit of Shankersinh Vaghela along with his coterie from the grand old party have made Patel's win a must to keep the partymen's morale floating ahead of the crucial Assembly elections later this year.
The Congress was sounding confident to accomplish something different in the state polls against the post-Modi leadership but now, the consecutive blows have turned the opinions against it. A loss for Patel would not only aggravate the situation but would also be a blow for Sonia's authority besides, of course, putting into jeopardy Patel's own political future.
The battle also gets intense because of Shah's presence. If Shah wins along with Smriti Irani and another BJP candidate (Gujarat has three Rajya Sabha seats) and the Congress draws a blank, it would not only be a loss of prestige for the latter but also a confirmation of the party turning completely leaderless in the state which it had once dominated but has been out of power for many decades now.
The BJP is facing a lot of issues in Gujarat of late and apprehensive about winning the first election after the exit of Modi for New Delhi but if there is no face at all, the Congress hopes little to build a platform to cash in on the anti-incumbency.