The opposition Congress, reeling under the impact of resignation of its senior leader Shankersinh Vaghela, had called a meeting today to chalk out its strategy for Gujarat polls.
AHMEDABAD: As BJP chief Amit Shah flew into Gujarat today, three Congress legislators in the state resigned and joined the party. One of them, Balwantsinh Rajput, is being fielded by the BJP for next month’s Rajya Sabha elections, as it attempts to prevent Ahmed Patel, political adviser to Congress President Sonia Gandhi, from getting re-elected to the Upper House of parliament. Mr Rajput is a close relative of Shankarsinh Vaghela, who exited the Congress last week and is seen as the choreographer of what is playing out now.
- A defeat for Ahmed Patel will not just dent his party’s morale, but will also politically diminish the Congress and its Gandhis further in Gujarat ahead of assembly polls this year and the 2019 national election.
- The two other MLAs who have resigned today, stunning the Congress, are Tejashree Patel and PI Patel. Tejashree Patel was present yesterday when Ahmed Patel filed nomination for the Rajya Sabha election.
- Elections will be held for three Rajya Sabha seats in Gujarat on August 8. The BJP, which has the numbers in the state assembly to win two of those seats with ease, has announced yesterday that party president Amit Shah will make his debut in parliament from one.
- For the other, the party has re-nominated Union Minister Smriti Irani, whose term ends next month. Both Mr Shah and Ms Irani will file nomination tomorrow.
- The BJP is fielding Balwantsinh Rajput as its third candidate against Ahmed Patel, hoping for a repeat of last week when about 11 Congress MLAs, believed to be Mr Vaghela’s supporters, voted for Ram Nath Kovind as President of India instead of Meira Kumar, the nominee of the Congress and 17 other opposition parties.
- The cross-voting was seen as a signal that Mr Vagehla can play spoiler in crucial elections for the Congress, which refused to project him as presumptive Chief Minister for the assembly elections.
- On his birthday last week, Mr Vagehla announced that he had been thrown out of the Congress and then later said he was quitting the party. He said he would not return to his old party the BJP, which he quit in 1996.
- But Mr Vagehla’s meetings with Amit Shah and other BJP leaders in the months leading up to his break-up with the Congress have triggered speculation that the north Gujarat heavyweight has been enlisted as the party’s B team to damage the Congress.
- So far Mr Vagehla has said he will honour a promise to support Ahmed Patel in the Rajya Sabha election, though with riders. The trail of resignations today indicate that the 77-year-old is still to play his full hand.
- The Congress now has 53 legislators in the 182-seat Gujarat assembly.