Former Congress leader Shankersinh Vaghela said on Tuesday that he did not vote for senior party leader Ahmed Patel because he did not want to "waste" his vote on a "losing candidate". He also said that many, among the 44 Congress MLAs, would vote for the BJP in the Rajya Sabha elections that are currently underway in Gandhinagar.
"I didn't vote for Ahmed Patel as he has no change of winning. Didn't want my vote to go waste. Have a good relationship with Ahmed bhai but I can't let my vote be inconsequential. All the three BJP candidates it Gujarat will win," Vaghela told reporters adding that the COngress did not do enough to ensure Patel's win in the polls.
In 1995, Vaghela had broken away from the BJP and formed his government with the support of the Congress. However, he quit the Congress last month after an association of almost 20 years but remained an MLA so that he could vote during the Rajya Sabha elections.
After resigning from the Congress, Vaghela said in public that he would vote for Patel in the elections to the Upper House. However, the same man ditched Patel by not voting for him when the time came.
Political drama in Gujarat
After a month-long political drama involving defections, whisking away of 44 Congress MLAs from one resort to another and I-T raids, the stage looks all set for elections to three Rajya Sabha seats from Gujarat on Tuesday.
For the first time since 1996, Gujarat's Rajya Sabha seats are facing a contest with four candidates contesting for three seats, two of which are held by Bharatiya Janata Party. The elections are significant due to the high-profile candidates involved — BJP president Amit Shah, Union minister Smriti Irani and Patel.
Balwantsinh Rajput, who quit Congress and recently defected to the BJP, was declared as the third candidate by the saffron party hours after he joined BJP. Rajput, a relative of former Congress leader Shankersinh Vaghela, will contest the elections against Patel.
The elections seem to be a prestige battle for Congress and will also decide the political future of Patel, who also serves as a political adviser to Congress president Sonia Gandhi. A win for Patel will not only help his political career but also allow Congress to put up a decent fight in the upcoming Gujarat Assembly elections.
Congress had whisked away 44 of its MLAs to a resort in Bengaluru to prevent them from switching sides and defecting to the BJP. After a nine-day stay, they were brought back to Ahmedabad early on Monday only to be taken to another resort, where they were lodged until Tuesday morning when the party took its MLAs to Gandhinagar for voting under police protection.
This was done after six Congress MLAs quit the party with three of them going ahead and joining the BJP. Congress also accused the saffron party of using "money and muscle power" to force its MLAs to defect to the BJP ahead of the Rajya Sabha polls.
Patel confident of win in RS polls
Patel met the Congress MLAs at Neejanand Resort near Anand town on Monday evening after which he said that he was confident of a win in the Rajya Sabha polls. Patel needs 45 votes to win the seat.
"I have complete faith in the MLAs. Congress will see a comfortable win on Tuesday. The MLAs have remained committed to the party in the last few days while in Bengaluru. There are other MLAs who can vote. There are NCP and JD(U) too. So numbers will not be a problem. The Congress will win comfortably," Patel told reporters.
However, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has decided to vote for the BJP, India Today reported.
The senior Congress leader also accused the BJP of forcing Congress to take the drastic step of whisking away its MLAs first to a resort in Bengaluru and then to another in Gujarat.
"The BJP has forced us to take this step. We had 57 MLAs and they had attempted to sabotage free elections by reducing our number to 25. So, we had to take this drastic step and move the MLAs out of the threatening situation," he said.
The math seems to be in BJP's favour
With 121 out of 182 seats in the Gujarat Assembly belonging to the BJP, the party shouldn't face any problem in getting Amit Shah and Smriti Irani elected to the Rajya Sabha. However, the party will have to depend on cross-voting by Congress MLAs for the third seat.
However, things are difficult for Congress which will have to make sure that all its 44 MLAs vote for Patel. At least 45 preference votes are needed for a candidate to get elected to the Upper House. Even though Congress has 51, there are high chances of cross-voting.
In an attempt to prevent cross-voting, Congress has issued a whip to its MLAs saying that cross-voting would result in disqualification from the party for six years. However, in an unusual statement, Gujarat's Minister of State for Law Pradeepsinh Jadeja has declared that anyone can engage in cross-voting without fearing disqualification.
NOTA option for voters is a first
In a first, the election to the Rajya Sabha will provide the NOTA option to voters, much to the dismay of both the Congress and the BJP.
The Congress wrote to the Election Commission (EC) and also moved Supreme Court (SC) protesting against the use of NOTA in the polls. However, the apex court refused to stay the option.
The BJP had also written to the poll panel citing a 2013 verdict of the SC wherein it was mentioned that NOTA can be applied in the Lok Sabha polls but not in the elections to the Rajya Sabha.
Voting will take place between 9 am and 4 pm at Saputara Hall of Swarnim Sankul II inside the New Secretariat complex in Gandhinagar. The results will be declared in the evening.