Congress leader Ahmed Patel snatched a late night victory in the Gujarat Rajya Sabha elections after the Election Commission rejected the votes of two Congress rebel legislators. Mr. Patel won by the skin of his teeth. He needed 44 votes to win and he got 44, returning to the Rajya Sabha from Gujarat for a fifth term in a bitterly fought election that became a massive prestige battle between the Congress and the BJP. The other two seats have been won easily by BJP chief Amit Shah, who makes his debut in Parliament, and union Minister Smriti Irani.
Ahmed Patel’s win was the best news the Congress has had in a long while and party workers engaged in frenzied celebration in Gandhinagar. Mr. Patel is political secretary to Congress president Sonia Gandhi and his win on Tuesday in a face-off with the BJP’s master strategist Amit Shah is a big shot in the arm of the opposition party ahead of assembly elections later this year in Gujarat, where it has steadily lost ground to the BJP.
Ahmed Patel has won the biggest political battle of his life and for the Congress. He has sprung hopes that there could be some chance for the already comatose Congress in Gujarat to revive.
Amit Shah has proved that he is completely focused on his job. He will not rest. Amit Shah will now focus on the target of 150+ seats in the upcoming Assembly polls. For this, Shah will not only work tirelessly, he also has decided to “welcome anyone in the BJP without being bothered about their past baggage”.
Though Shah is reported not to have a personal fondness for Shankersinh Vagela and his style of politics, his readiness to collaborate with Vaghela shows his political flexibility which is the call of the day.
After a high-voltage drama and a series of betrayals that rocked the Congress, Ahmed Patel defeated Balwantsinh Rajput of the BJP in the Rajya Sabha polls which have now been termed as the most interesting and controversial RS polls in India’s political history.
However all is not over for Amit Shah. He gambled and he gambled so well on Congress rebel Balwantsinh Rajput that he had the entire Congress running for cover. Amit Shah and Ahmed Patel will play a crucial role in the forthcoming assembly polls in Gujarat. With Balwantsinh having lost, Shankersinh Vaghela’s clout has definitely decreased. Vaghela had promised 22 defections from the Congress but managed to get 14. Six of the Congress MLAs resigned and eight cross voted.
Amit Shah is a man whose strategy, patience, networking and political acumen has grown manifold over the years. In fact today, Shah completes three years as the National BJP president. Ahmed Patel, despite public talk that he will now seek retirement, is likely to work for Congress revival in Gujarat. Amit Shah, Ahmed Patel and Shankersinh Vaghela will continue to remain active in respective fields; for now they are likely to cool heels for the next big battle — Gujarat Assembly polls.
For the Congress, wresting a win through Patel after facing multiple setbacks in the run-up to the poll, is the morale booster it has needed for a while. But while Shah and Irani registered easy wins, the fight boiled down to the third seat, which Patel was contesting.
Abdul Hafiz Lakhani is a senior journalist based in Gujarat. He is also Editor of Gujarat Siyasat.