A day after high-voltage drama on the Rajya Sabha election day in Gujarat, the Congress on Wednesday appeared focussed on regrouping and re-analysing the work cut out for the next big test for the party: the state Assembly elections later this year. While the party expelled eight MLAs, who had cross-voted on Tuesday, for six years from the party, and Ahmed Patel, fresh from eking out victory from the jaws of what had appeared a defeat, set a target of winning 125 seats in the Assembly polls, the Congress seemed to be drawing closer to the Sharad Yadav faction of
The party today said the vote from lone JD(U) MLA in Gujarat, Chhotubhai Vasava, clinched Patel’s victory. Of 44 votes cast in favour of Patel, senior Gujarat Congress leader Arjun Modhwadia said, 43 were from Congress MLAs and the last one from Vasava, seen as a Sharad Yadav camp leader in the JD(U). Vasava had on Tuesday told The Indian Express that he had voted for the Congress given his ideological differences with the BJP, with whom his party leader Nitish Kumar has now teamed up to form a new government in Bihar, and also because he comes from the same district — Bharuch — as Ahmed Patel. “Thank you for your support Sharad ji,” the Congress Rajya Sabha member tweeted after his victory, in reply to Yadav’s tweet congratulating him for a victory “in spite of toughest hurdles”.
The JD(U) vote proved crucial for Patel after Karamsi Patel voted for the BJP, as Modwadia confirmed today. Karamsi Patel was one of the 44 Congress MLAs the party had flown out and put up at a resort in Bengaluru, followed by one in Anand, Gujarat, a day before polling to avoid “poaching” by BJP. On Wednesday, Karamsi was one of the eight MLAs the party expelled for anti-party activities. The others are senior leader Shankersinh Vaghela, his son Mahendrasinh, Raghavji Patel, Dharmendrasinh Jadeja, C K Raulji, Bholabhai Gohel, and Amit Chaudhary. State Congress president Bharatsinh Solanki said the party is also studying the option of initiating legal action against them to bar them from contesting elections for six years. About yesterday’s vote, Modwadia said two MLAs of key ally NCP, Jayant Bosky and Kandhal Jadeja, did not vote for Ahmed Patel.
While Bosky, who is also the NCP’s Gujarat unit president, remained incommunicado, NCP general secretary Jagdishchandra Dafda claimed that Bosky voted for the Congress, as per the whip issued by party supremo Sharad Pawar. Dafda said Kandhal Jadeja voted for BJP. Vaghela, whose resignation from the Congress on July 21 triggered the crisis for the party, voted for BJP even though he had told Ahmed Patel even a day before polling that his vote was “reserved” for Patel, according to a source in the party. Even after Vaghela’s resignation, Patel was in touch with him on the phone regularly, and had gone to his home a week ago, the source said. “But Vaghela betrayed Ahmed Patel during polling,” the source said. Six other Congress MLAs owing allegiance to Vaghela also cross-voted. In addition, six party MLAs did not vote since they had quit the party and resigned from membership of the legislative assembly.
BJP whip in the Assembly Pankaj Desai, meanwhile, said that all BJP MLAs, including doubtful Nalin Kotadiya who had claimed on social media on Tuesday that he voted for Ahmed Patel, had cast their vote in favour of BJP candidates. Blaming the turn of events on election day on Congress internal groups, bickering and disenchantment of MLAs against the party’s top leadership, BJP spokesperson Bharat Pandya said in a statement, “Our candidate, Balvantsinh Rajput, will take this up legally.”