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As Ahmed Patel Stares at Defeat, Congress Scrambles to 'Shield' Sonia

Ahmed Patel, or AP as he is known as in political circles, is fighting a prestige battle as his loss would be seen as a loss of face for Sonia Gandhi as well — as he happens to be her political secretary.

Pallavi Ghosh | CNN-News18_pallavighosh

Updated:July 31, 2017, 10:27 PM IST
As Ahmed Patel Stares at Defeat, Congress Scrambles to 'Shield' Sonia
Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel had has denied the allegations as “completely baseless". (PTI photo)

New Delhi: As the going gets tough for Ahmed Patel, the Congress is rushing in to save party chief Sonia Gandhi.

Congress MLAs from Gujarat are now holed up in a resort in Bengaluru to prevent them from being “poached” by the BJP ahead of Rajya Sabha elections.

Ahmed Patel, or AP as he is known in political circles, is fighting a prestige battle. His loss would be an embarrassment for Sonia Gandhi as well — as he happens to be her political secretary.

It would raise a question mark over her ability to keep her flock together. Each time Rahul Gandhi fails, the demand for Sonia to be still in control grows louder and she cannot be seen as the loser. This explains why suddenly, at a press conference, senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad jumped in to save her.

“Ahmed Patel is not contesting as political secretary. He has been a parliamentarian for long and it's not correct to bring the Congress president in," Azad said at the end of the press conference.

The press conference was called to answer questions on how the party’s Gujarat MLAs could be in a Bengaluru resort while floods ravage their constituencies back in Gujarat. Azad hit back saying neither Chief Minister Vijay Rupani nor Prime Minister Narendra Modi had “bothered” to hit the ground, preferring only aerial surveys.

A defeat for Ahmed Patel may not be just a personal or political blow for him alone. Sources say he wasn't too keen to contest, but was cajoled into doing so by Sonia.

Now that he is in the fight, Patel, who has always stepped in to defend Sonia, may need to do it again. Which is why on Monday, the Congress officially stepped in to ensure Sonia is shielded.

In a span of less than ten days, everything that could go wrong for the Congress has gone wrong. It all started with 11 MLAs cross voting in the presidential election, putting a dent in the grand projections of opposition unity. The big blow, however, was the public falling out and exit of Congress’ most popular leader in Gujarat — Shankersinh Vaghela.

His departure has sparked an exodus, with six more MLAs quitting, making it increasingly difficult for Ahmed Patel to secure a Rajya Sabha berth.

There are a total of 182 seats in the Assembly. Prior to the string of resignations, BJP had 121 seats and the Congress had 57. The NCP has two seats, the JDU has one and there is one independent.

The total eligible votes, divided by the number of seats (in this case, three) plus one i.e four, plus one is the minimum number of votes required by a candidate to win the seat. Gujarat gets to send three members to the Rajya Sabha. So in Gujarat’s case it would be (182/3+1) + 1.

However, with six legislators quitting, now the total number of MLAs in the Gujarat Assembly is 176, bringing down the total number of votes required to win to 45 (176/4+1). This means that BJP chief Amit Shah and Union minister Smriti Irani can automatically get elected. The BJP will still be left with a surplus of 31 votes.

In the Congress camp, six of the 57 MLAs have already quit, bringing their tally down to 51.

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| Edited by: Ashish Yechury
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