NEW DELHI: “The Congress is in an existential crisis. It’s not an electoral crisis.’’ This is Jairam Ramesh, a former minister and Rajya Sabha member, sending an SOS to his party through media. The alarm bells could not have been rung at a more appropriate time — his party colleague in Gujarat, Ahmed Patel, is staring down the barrel in what’s perhaps the toughest challenge to his political career.
Electoral and existential: it’s the same for Patel. State party chief Shaktisinh Gohil may be imparting desperate lessons to 44 MLAs on how to vote for Patel without fail in the Rajya Sabha polls on Tuesday. But on the voting eve, things looked iffy for a once-powerful political secretary to the party president.
Patel needs 45 to win his fifth re-election in a row to the Rajya Sabha. So even if all 44 Congress MLAs vote obediently for him, he’s still one short. NCP leader Praful Patel, a former UPA minister, who has suddenly reclaimed his Gujarati origins with posters splashed around Ahmedabad, has declared that his party is in alliance with no one, so his Gujarat MLAs are free to vote for anyone they choose.
Chotubhai Vasava, a JD-U MLA, was present when Patel filed his nominations and pledged support. But in his latest statement, he’s said he would vote for those who’ll give something to his constituency.
Later in the evening, a Vasava confidante told Express the “MLA will take final call tomorrow”, leaving it tantalizingly open for the voting day.
Nalin Kotadia of the erstwhile Gujarat Parivartan Party, Keshubhai Patel’s rebel outfit, is reportedly headed for the BJP.Then there’s Shankarsinh Vaghela, his MLA son Mahendrasinh and close aide Raghavji Patel, and four other fence-sitters from the gang of Congress rebels. None of them, including Vaghela, have formally resigned from the party, but declared they’ve quit.Vaghela on Monday told a channel that he spoke to Ahmed Patel on Sunday and would speak to him again on Tuesday.
But whom an MLA votes for “is not a matter that can be discussed’’, he said. “It’s his/her right.”
What’s more, he admitted that he’s been advising Balwantsinh Rajput, Patel’s ex-protégé who’s contesting against him, on what he needs to do to win the elections!The Congress’s band of 44 too is a cause for some nervousness.
Despite Patel saying “I’ve enough numbers and more,’’ political watchers in Ahmedabad and Delhi are keeping their fingers crossed—what if a dozen carted from their resort in Karnataka to a resort in Gujarat transfer their vote to Rajput or put a tick on NOTA?