AHMEDABAD:In a precarious position when it comes to numbers that it needs to send senior leader Ahmed Patel to Rajya Sabha, the Congress just got a solid piece of bad news. Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Praful Patel on Sunday said his party has not decided yet about extending support to any party for the Rajya Sabha polls in Gujarat to be held on Tuesday.
The Sharad Pawar-led party, which entered into an alliance with the Congress for the 2012 Assembly polls in the state, currently has two legislators – Kandhal Jadeja and Jayant Patel.
Gujarat has three seats to decide for the Rajya Sabha in this election. BJP chief Amit Shah and union minister Smriti Irani are placed to easily win two of the three seats. Ahmed Patel, who has served four terms already in the Rajya Sabha, is getting pushed further away from the third.
“Though the NCP was part of the previous Congress-led UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government at the Centre, there is no such alliance at present. Though we are a small party with only two MLAs, we have suddenly become important and people are now searching for these two legislators,” Praful Patel, the NCP in-charge for Gujarat, told reporters in Anand.
He said the decision about supporting any party in the Rajya Sabha polls would be taken in consultation with Mr Pawar.
Asked about the Congress shifting 43 legislators to Bengaluru to stop them from defecting to the BJP, Mr Patel said the party itself was responsible for the current scenario.
“Usually, Rajya Sabha MPs used to get elected unopposed. It is just because of the Congress that a contest is taking place this time. 14 of their MLAs have either left the party or have made up their mind not to vote for the Congress candidate,” he said.
Just days before the vote this week, six Congress legislators quit the party within days last month – a plan allegedly scripted by its former leader Shankersinh Vaghela, who, the party says, is out to draw blood after he was not projected as its Chief Ministerial candidate. Even though the NCP lawmakers have maintained they will go by what their party decides, both had attended Mr Vaghela’s huge rally on his birthday last month where he announced his separation with the Congress.
Three of the legislators who quit promptly joined the BJP. None will be eligible to vote in the Rajya Sabha election on August 8. But their deletion from the Congress’ rolls jeopardises the election of Ahmed Patel – the political adviser to party No 1 Sonia Gandhi. A loss would also erode the party’s morale and expose new weaknesses ahead of the state election in December.
To get re-elected, Ahmed Patel needs 45 votes on basis of the current strength of the assembly. On paper, the Congress is down to 51 seats but some of them loyal to Mr Vaghela are likely to abstain or vote for his opponent.
The BJP has fielded a relative of Mr Vaghela, Balwantsinh Rajput, as its candidate against Mr Patel, just hours after it acquired him from the Congress.