Ahmed Patel is political secretary to Congress president Sonia Gandhi and his win on Tuesday in a face-off with the BJP's master strategist Amit Shah is a big shot in the arm for the opposition party ahead of assembly elections later this year in Gujarat, where it has steadily lost ground to the BJP. He has the reputation of being a troubleshooter and strategist for the party. The contest for fifth Rajya Sabha term turned out to be the most challenging for the 67-year-old leader.
Patel represented Gujarat seven times in Parliament -- three-time as Lok Sabha member from Bharuch and four-time as Rajya Sabha member. Patel played a key role in running the UPA alliance, as a trusted lieutenant of Sonia Gandhi, during its 10 years in power from 2004. He had also served as the Congress' parliament secretary, treasurer and president of Gujarat unit.
There are several reasons that can be attributed to this
1. It all began with cross voting in the presidential election. At least eight MLAs of the opposition Congress in BJP-ruled Gujarat appeared to have voted for the victorious NDA nominee Ram Nath Kovind. This came as a significant blow to the Congress in Gujarat where elections are due later this year. It reflected the disunity in the party that could have put Patel's chances of winning at risk.
2. Few weeks ahead of the polls, senior Congress leader Shankarsinh Vaghela resigned from all party posts. This blow was accompanied by his act of further ditching the grand old party by not voting for Patel. Vaghela said Patel would "not even win 40 votes" and confirmed he had voted against the Congressman.
3. In the backdrop of at least six Gujarat Congress MLAs quitting and joining the BJP, as many as 44 MLAs were made to leave the state and stay in Bengaluru. Congress leaders accused BJP of horse-trading ahead of the Rajya Sabha elections. This stunt appears to have worked in Ahmed Patel's favour. All the MLAs, except one, voted for Patel.
4. In yet another twist, on the day of polling, one NCP legislature decided to betray the Congress party and vote against Patel. While NCP chief Sharad Pawar said that the party will vote for Congress, NCP leader Kandhal Jadeja announced that the party will support the Bhartiya Janata Party’s candidate Balvantsinh Rajput.
5. Cross voting during election: Cross-voting ruled the early hours of polling as rebel Congress leader Shankarsinh Vaghela voted in favour of BJP candidate Balwantsinh Rajput, who recently defected from Congress to join the saffron party. Moreover, two Congress MLAs, Bhola Bhai Gohil and Raghav Bhai Patel violated polling procedures by showing their ballot papers to Amit Shah.
The victory of Ahmed Patel holds a symbolic importance— for two reasons
1. Opposition-mukt Bharat: Patel's defeat would have been seen as a blow to Sonia Gandhi. It would have sent a strong message to the Congress ranks that they were riding in a sinking boat. That's why the election became a matter of pride for both the sides.
2. Election Commission's glory re-instated:
Right after the Election Commission's order, Congress President said, "Thank god for the Election Commission". In April, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal was at war with the EC over Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) tampering. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) ranted against the EC, calling it spineless. Hence, this time, all the rebels may have to eat their words. Despite senior BJP leaders, including several union ministers, urging EC to continue with the poll counting, the Commission declared votes of two Congress MLAs — Bhola Bhai Gohil and Raghav Bhai Patel — invalid.
The decision was hailed by the Opposition. Congress leader Randeep Surjewala said that the Election Commission by segregating the unwarranted votes has taught the BJP lesson of its life.
"The BJP used all power it had; it deployed all its union ministers but the truth won. It is a victory of truth. We thank the EC, for upholding the law and holding the two unwarranted votes. There cannot be a better lesson for the BJP," said Surjewala.