Poll humdinger in Gujarat
After weeks of fast-paced political developments, Gujarat looks set for a thrilling contest in the Rajya Sabha elections which will decide among others the fate of Ahmed Patel, the influential political secretary to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.
It is after a gap of about two decades that a contest is happening in Rajya Sabha polls in Gujarat, where official nominees of major parties used to get elected unopposed.
The ruling BJP has fielded party chief Amit Shah, Union minister Smriti Irani, and Balwantsinh Rajput, who till recently was Congress' chief whip in the House, for the three RS seats.
While its first two candidates will sail through, the BJP will have to manage extra votes to enable Rajput beat Patel.
Ahmed Patel, who met Congress MLAs after they returned from their Bengaluru sojourn, said he was confident of his victory.
These MLAs have now been hosted at a resort in Anand district.
The Congress, which has been out of power in the state for over a decade-and-a-half now, was caught off-guard by the abrupt exit of party stalwart Shankarsinha Vaghela recently.
It was jolted further when its six MLAs, including Rajput, a relative of Vaghela resigned from the Assembly.
Three of them later joined BJP, setting off alarm bells for the party in Gujarat where Assembly elections are due later this year. The beleaguered Congress packed off its 44 MLAs to Bengaluru to ward off any threat of "poaching" by the BJP.
However, six of the 51 MLAs still in the Congress, apart from Vaghela, have not put their cards on the table. They were not among the MLAs packed off to Bengaluru.
Vaghela, who resigned from the party and as the leader of the opposition, has not quit the House yet, giving Congress the jitters.
A candidate will require 45 votes for a straight win in the poll, and the BJP with 121 MLAs can secure easy victories for Shah and Irani. The party will be left with 31 surplus votes for Rajput, who will require the backing of rebel MLAs of the Congress and smaller parties to win.
For now, Ahmed Patel looks like having the clear backing of 44 Congress MLAs, but even if none of them cross-votes or uses NOTA (None of the Above) option, the Congress candidate will require one additional vote for his victory.
However, NCP leader Praful Patel who on Sunday said his party had not made up its mind on Monday hinted at backing BJP.
Keeping his cards close to the chest, Vaghela on Monday chose to maintain silence on his choice of candidate for the Rajya Sabha polls, but said Congress nominee Ahmed Patel remained a "friend."
Meanwhile, Amit Shah, who has helmed the party to spectacular victories in several elections since 2014, is camping in Gujarat strategising on how to get all three BJP nominees win.