Amit Shah Vs Ahmad Patel in Gujarat: Uneven Fight?
VENKATESH KESARI & SEEMA MUSTAFA
NEW DELHI: The Bharatiya Janata Party under Amit Shah has made it clear there is no room for complacency, and that every election fought---be it for the civic polls or the Rajya Sabha---is crucial for the party seeking control at all levels. As a result the Congress party, is periodically jolted out of its somnolence and rushes around trying to retrieve ground that has actually been lost.
Rajya Sabha elections are a case in point where the BJP has launched a virtual Operation Gujarat to capture the third seat that the Congress was almost certain of. Of the three Rajya Sabha seats becoming vacant, the Congress party had looked upon just one as its own, conceding the other two to the numerically superior BJP. However, the BJP with its nose always close to the battleground had no intention of giving up even the one and has been working systematically to win it from the Congress party, and more specifically from the party president Sonia Gandhi’s political manager Ahmad Patel.
The steps of Operation Gujarat, being executed with BJP skill and cunning are as follows:
- The decision to postpone the RS polls inGujarat by a month, thereby allowing the ruling party sufficient time to prepare for the next measures that followed in quick succession.
- The presidential elections followed where at least 11 Congress MLAs were weaned away by the BJP to vote for Ram Nath Kovind.
- Congress leader Shankersing Vaghela left the primary membership of the Congress although local media reports still quote him as saying he will support Ahmad Patel. Sources are categorical that the wily leader who started his political career with the Jana Sangh, and has always kept his fingers dipped in the BJP pie, is just using this as a bargaining chip; and that in actual fact the BJP is assured of his support.
- Six Congress legislators resigned soon after, and while no political leader wants to say it for the record, most privately admit that the ‘lure’ was ‘too much’ for them to resist. Whatever be the reason, the six have crossed sides and will be voting for the BJP in the RS elections. The BJP claims it will wean away atleast another 10 before August 8 when the polls are to be cast. In the 182 Assembly House, the strenght of the Congress party is now just 51.
- The None of the The Above (NOTA) was introduced as a category for the Rajya Sabha elections where such an option has never been used, except once in 2012 in Andhra Pradesh. This, the sources said, has been brought in to convey the message to the Congress legislators that they can vote against the party, without technically voting for the BJP. As a NOTA vote will not attract disqualification clauses, and leave them within the Congress. There is apprehension within the Congress that this option might be used against Patel by several legislators in the party.
Ahmad Patel is currently camping in Ahmedabad, and is of the view that he still can get the seat if the BJP does not further hit the party with “cases constituting non bailable offences” against the legislators. He told The Citizen that the “war is on” adding, “this is a manifestation of the BJP’s arrogance of power. They just cannot digest the possibility of defeat, they are desperate and frustrated.” In his view NOTA was “unnecessary and a contradiction” as the RS polls required political parties and legislators to take a clear cut position.
However, as against the determined and clear cut plan of action by the BJP to win all three seats in Gujarat, the Congress has left it to Ahmad Patel to battle it out. Amit Shah and Smriti Irani are the high powered candidates for the seats from the BJP, as against Ahmad Patel who now does not even have Vaghela on his side. However, he too is a wise old politician with good knowledge of the permutations and combinations of the Gujarat Assembly and is in no mood to give up. “It is a comfortable win, provided the BJP does not resort to low hand tactics,” he said. But then the BJP does not seem to be listening, and certainly does not care except to win all three seats and declare its full control over Gujarat, seen as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s bastion.