Ahmedabad: BJP party chief Amit Shah and colleague and Union minister Smriti Irani are through to the Rajya Sabha, but Congress’ senior leader Ahmed Patel was kept on tenterhooks till the very end for the third seat from the Gujarat Assembly.
The Congress’ chances were dimmed with cross-voting, infighting and resignations as Ahmed Patel struggled to be re-elected from the Gujarat Assembly.
Each candidate needs 45 votes to go through. With 121 MLas in the Assembly, the BJP’s first choices were Amit Shah and Smriti Irani, leaving their third candidate Balwantsinh Rajput with 31 spare MLAs.
Until recently, Rajput was Congress’ chief whip in the House before defecting to the BJP.
Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s political advisor Ahmed Patel, struggling to be re-elected a fifth time, had the clear support of 44 MLAs, discounting Shankersinh Vaghela.
“As Ahmed Patel is going to lose, I have not given my vote to him,” Vaghela said after casting his vote.
But two other Congress leaders — Raghavji Patel and Dharmendrasinh Jadeja –also voted for the BJP, it is learnt.
Outraged at these defections, Congress’s Randeep Surjewala and RPN Singh said they would approach the Election Commission (EC) to demand quashing of these votes as the MLAs publicly displayed who they had voted for. The counting was delayed after the EC agreed to verify the footages of MLAs publicly displaying their votes.
Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party has two MLAs, one of whom – Kandhal Jadeja — has said he will not vote for Ahmed Patel. It was not clear how the other NCP leader, Jayant Patel, voted.
The lone JD(U) MLA, Chhotubhai Vasava, said he voted for Ahmed Patel as the “ruling BJP has done little for tribal people and the poor”.
He said the decision to vote for the Congress nominee was solely his own and not necessarily that of the party which he represents. Party boss and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has recently defected to the NDA.
“Nitish Kumar did not contact me over voting, and there was nothing like a whip issued by the party in this regard. The decision to vote for Patel was my own,” he said.
A fight for a seat is taking place for Rajya Sabha polls in Gujarat after a gap of two decades.