Ahmed Patel wins, Shah eyes 150 seats in Guj
It's a huge relief for the Congress after top leader Ahmed Patel managed his re-election to the Rajya Sabha, but the victory is steeped in mystery.
To win, Patel, who is the top aide to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, needed 44 votes. He got 44. It was that tight. And it wasn't without "a foreign hand" - his victory rests on cross-voting by a lawmaker from another party.
The Congress had 43 legislators that stuck by the party. Another two were disqualified after the Congress pointed out that they broke the rules by showing their ballot papers to a BJP representative - that was crucial for Patel, because with their removal, the overall strength of the house was reduced and he needed fewer votes to win: 44.
43 came from within the Congress. So who cast the crucial 44th vote that ensured Patel's triumph, however slender?
Sharad Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party or NCP has two legislators in Gujarat. The party has accepted that one of them defied its stated support for Patel but insists the other stuck with party instructions and backed him.
If that is the case, then something is not adding up. Because the lone legislator in Gujarat from the Janata Dal (United) or JD-U, which is led by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, says he too voted for Patel. Which means Patel should have got 45 votes, not 44. ''There is no reason to not believe me. Ahmed Patel is an old friend and I had assured him my vote. And I have voted for him," said the JDU lawmaker, Chhotu Vasava.
"This is not just my victory. It is a defeat of the most blatant use of money power, muscle power and abuse of state machinery," Patel tweeted after his win.
Meanwhile, BJP chief Amit Shah arrived in Delhi on Wednesday to a big welcome at the airport by party workers. It's a double celebration for the BJP as Mr Shah completes three years as party chief on the same day as he was elected to the Rajya Sabha for his debut in Parliament.
The 52-year-old leader resigned on Wednesday as a legislator in Gujarat and at a party felicitation in Gandhinagar said it was a special day for him as he began new innings representing his state in the Upper House of Parliament. "I have been an MLA for the last 20 years... I tried to work to the best of my potential," the BJP chief said, adding in fulsome praise for PM Narendra Modi, "It is our pride that Narendrabhai is ours."
On Tuesday night Amit Shah had sat huddled with MLAs from his party as counting of votes in the Rajya Sabha election was delayed by over six hours because the Congress had sought that two rebel legislators be disqualified. The Election Commission accepted the petition, an order that helped the Congress' Ahmed Patel win a seat. Amit Shah and the BJP's Smriti Irani won the other two in results announced after 3 am on Wednesday.
At the party meeting on Wednesday he said, "If we win 150 assembly seats in the December elections, then all three Rajya Sabha seats will come to us next time."
Since his nomination by the BJP for a Rajya Sabha seat there has been intense speculation about a cabinet berth for Shah in the Narendra Modi government. The BJP chief said a few days ago that he would not be a minister and the party's Prabhat Jha reiterated that, saying Amit Shah "won't join the ministry."