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Late Night Drama, Trojan Horses: Congress Comes Out on Top in Gujarat Rajya Sabha Potboiler

The outcome of the Rajya Sabha elections would impact the internal political dynamics of the Congress, triggering another round of war between the old guard and generation next.

Pallavi Ghosh, Meghdoot Sharonpallavighcnnibn

Updated:August 9, 2017, 2:19 PM IST
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Late Night Drama, Trojan Horses: Congress Comes Out on Top in Gujarat Rajya Sabha Potboiler
Ahmed Patel's victory could spark a power tussle between the Congress old guard and new. (Getty Images)
Ahmedabad: This probably would go down in the history of Indian parliamentary democracy as the mother of all electoral battles. Just one Rajya Sabha seat at stake, and for more than 12 hours the potboiler in Ahmedabad gripped the nation's collective conscience like a T20 nail biter.

It was a match for which both teams prepared for well over a month in advance. A senior BJP leader had been telling the media off-record for more than two months that the party would win all three Rajya Sabha seats in Gujarat. It was a battle for which, former Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot – one of Ahmed Patel’s closest aides – was sent by the Congress leadership to make preparations. The ruse, however, was the Gujarat Assembly polls slated for November this year.

In retrospect, it seems the Congress was anticipating trouble when party president Sonia Gandhi's political advisor would seek his re-election. A defeat here at the hands of BJP would have had larger political ramifications, eroding the very authority of the Congress leadership in its inability to ensure a safe passage to Ahmed Patel.

The outcome of these elections would also impact the internal political dynamics of the Congress, triggering another round of war between the old guard and generation next. A win here would underscore old guard's ability not only to fight back but also win.

For Ahmed Patel, there were other options available as well. Looking East, Mamata Banerjee was offering support for one seat from West Bengal. Congress also had numbers to complete the home run, though leaving the battlefield in the face of a raging war would have had a more debilitating impact, in the poll bound state and outside.

A showdown was inevitable. Hence the Congress, which has increasingly started to see politics as a discipline in human resource management, entered the arena for an uphill battle and inevitable slugfest.

The outcome of the Presidential elections, where 11 supporters of Shankarsinh Vaghela voted against the opposition candidate, Meira Kumar, set the cat among the pigeons. Bapu had made his choice, and it was up to the Congress party to consolidate its defence.

So in a role reversal of sorts, it was Congress which had to take its MLAs to faraway Karnataka, to keep them shielded from the prying eyes of the ruling party.

The BJP accused Congress MLAs of enjoying a 5-star holiday when the rivers in Gujarat were drowning parts of the state. Senior Congress leaders were forced to take up the relief work in absence of elected representatives.

The twists and turns in the Gujarat saga continued till the very last. One NCP MLA reportedly defied the party whip to vote for the BJP. Lone JD(U) MLA Chotu Vasava kept everyone guessing till the very end.

Two Congress MLAs – from the lot of 44 – voted for BJP, and perhaps made a demonstration of it.

By evening, more than a dozen current and former union ministers were knocking at the Election Commission's door – some seeking disqualification of their votes, others arguing against it.

Half an hour to the stroke of midnight, EC came up with its final order. Cheers echoed from the Congress camp in Ahmedabad.

The counting finally started close to midnight.

Lo and behold, when everyone through the day scanned Congress ranks for renegades, the Trojan horse was found to have quietly entered the opposite camp and done the damage.

Inherent in the Gujarat RS polls outcome are two important messages:

One, politicians have elephantine memory, they don’t forget or forgive.

Two, the law of diminishing returns creeps into play if stakes are raised beyond a threshold.
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