Why Ahmed Patel's and Congress’ victory is unlikely to impact BJP’s fortunes
The Congress might have won the prestige battle by managing to get its strategist Ahmed Patel elected to the Rajya Sabha.
But though the BJP has been left red faced, the victory is unlikely to have a impact on the saffron party’s electoral fortunes, particularly not in Gujarat, which goes to polls later this year.
A matter of prestige
Perhaps the most keenly contested Rajya Sabha polls in Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Shah’s home state of Gujarat, there has been much political drama for over a month. The drama reached its crescendo late 8 August when the results were finally declared.
Considered one of the most influential Congress leaders, Patel managed to scrape through for his fifth Rajya Sabha term courtesy the Election Commission’s move to invalidate votes of two Congress legislators who allegedly cross-voted.
Incidentally, Patel’s victory came on a day when Shah, who made his debut to parliament, completed three years as the BJP chief.
Making it a prestige battle, Shah left no stone unturned to ensure Patel's defeat. Be it the revolt by Congress veteran Shankarsinh Veghela or the exodus of six other MLAs just ahead of the polls, or pitting turncoat Balwantsinh Rajput against Patel.
The fact the BJP fielded a battery of leaders including top ministers led by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley at the EC to fight out the Congress’s complaint against two of its legislators, was also an indication of the BJP’s intent to win all the three Rajya Sabha on offer.
Not a setback
Notwithstanding the renewed assertions of revival by the Congress post the victory, analysts feel it is hardly a setback for the BJP, which has been scripting consecutive electoral victories and been spreading its dominance across the country.
“It’s hardly a setback for the BJP. Rather, it is a loss of face for Shah, who had put in a lot of effort to ensure Patel’s defeat.The Congress has just managed to salvage some pride. More than giving answers, the poll has posed many questions about its preparations for the year end assembly polls in Gujarat,” said Sandeep Shastri national coordinator, Lokniti Network.
Pointing to the exit and defection of its MLAs, Shastri said Patel’s win is mere balm on the many wounds the Congress’ has sustained during the last one month in the build up to the Rajya Sabha polls.
“When you have to ship away your MLAs to another state to protect them from getting poached, it says a lot about Congress’ ability for a sustained campaign against the BJP which has been in power for nearly two decades now. It is not a victory for Congress, they have just managed to maintain the status quo - the BJP maintained its two seats, the Congress retained one," he said,
“Winning all three seats would have been the icing on the cake for the BJP, but the fact to remember is, the cake still remains with the BJP. The Congress needs to realise the ground realities before it claims it to be victory and setback for the BJP,” he added.
Winning by fluke
Patel owes his victory to the EC’s move of cancelling the votes of two rebel MLAs, Raghavji Patel and Bholabhai Gohil. The votes were cancelled after Congress moved the panel complaining the duo violated the electoral code of conduct by displaying their ballot papers the BJP and not just to the Congress official polling agent.
The cancellation led the number of first preference votes needed by Patel down to 44 from 45 earlier.
Patel would have also been in trouble had the EC not dismissed BJP’s complaint against two Congress MLAs, Shailesh Parmar, and Mitesh Garasia. If the EC allowed the BJP’s plea, Patel's strength would have come down to 42, leaving him short of one vote.
Pravin Rai of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) says that the results of the Rajya Sabha are more of a wakeup call for the Congress than the BJP.
“It would be too much to dub Patel’s victory as a wakeup call for the BJP or a shot in the arm for Congress. Despite having the more than the requisite strength ,Patel just managed to win - that too with the intervention of the EC,” said Rai.
“The way it deputed so many high profile leaders to the EC perhaps is an indication of its nervousness, but also reflects how badly it wanted to win. But the result, in no way, adversely impacts the BJP in its electoral fortunes in coming polls. But the EC’s intervention definitely has ensured that the BJP is prevented from carrying on its highhandedness in elections. It’s for all to see how it formed governments in Goa and Manipur despite coming second. Even in this poll, it almost managed to snatch Patel’s seat,” he added.
Not to take things lying down, the BJP has already declared its intention of taking legal recourse.
Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani has said the party did not agree with the EC invalidating two Congress votes and asserted of challenging it in a court of law.
The party is also likely to look into its MLA Nalin Kotadiya claims that he voted against BJP in the polls after seeing the pain of 14 youths who died during a Patidar agitation.
"Seeing the pain of 14 youths who died during Patidar agitation, I voted against BJP," Kotadiya claimed on Facebook.