As per the current strength of the Gujarat Assembly, each candidate requires a minimum of 44 votes to win.
New Delhi: A day ahead of the crucial Rajya Sabha elections in Gujarat, both the Congress and the BJP on Tuesday claimed to have the requisite numbers to win the third seat in which Ahmed Patel is pitted against the BJP’s Balwantsinh Rajput. But there was uncertainty about whether the numbers add up for the Congress.
Mr Patel, political secretary to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, said that apart from MLAs of his own party, he has the support of the NCP and JD(U). While reports suggest that the lone JD(U) legislator will be extending support to Mr Patel, there were mixed signals on which way the NCP’s two MLAs will vote.
Mr Patel, speaking to reporters in Anand, Gujarat, said, “I am confident of winning the Rajya Sabha seat. All the MLAs are with me despite the BJP trying to break the MLAs... I have just got word that two NCP MLAs will also be voting for me.”
However, one NCP MLA, Kandhal Jadeja, said that the NCP has asked its MLAs to vote for the BJP’s candidate. “We will vote for BJP candidate Balvantsinh Rajput in the election. That is what the party has asked us to do,” Mr Jadeja said.
NCP leader Praful Patel had on Sunday said his party had not yet decided about extending support to any party for the Rajya Sabha polls in Gujarat, while adding that his party would definitely not enter into an alliance with the BJP. But the NCP’s double-talk means that the Congress is treading on thin ice.
The two votes of NCP are crucial in case there is cross-voting or some Congress MLAs, especially those close to Shankersinh Vaghela who quit the Congress last month, exercise the Nota (None of the Above) option. The voting for Rajya Sabha members is through the secret ballot. Six Congress MLAs resigned after Mr Vaghela, along with his son, quit the party. Three of the six MLAs joined the BJP. Of the Congress’ remaining 49 MLAs, two have expressed the desire to join the BJP.
There are three Rajya Sabha vacancies from Gujarat but there are four candidates in the fray — three from the BJP and one from the Congress.
As per the current strength of the Gujarat Assembly, each candidate requires a minimum of 44 votes to win. With the BJP having a mammoth 121 seats out of the 182 seats, its two candidates — Amit Shah and Smriti Irani — will win smoothly. It’s the contest between Mr Patel and Mr Rajput that is making both the parties anxious.
The BJP’s Balwantsinh Rajput too quit the Congress recently and is standing against Mr Patel who is seeking a fifth term.
The Congress had transported its 44 MLAs to Karnataka fearing defections. They are now back in Gujarat and staying at a resort in Anand.
Hitting at the Congress, Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani said, “BJP will win all the three seats and Ahmed Patel will definitely lose.” BJP president Amit Shah is currently in Gujarat.
Since Assembly elections are scheduled to be held in Gujarat at the end of the year, disqualification is not a real fear for MLAs. In the recently-concluded presidential elections, about 11 Congress MLAs had voted in favour of Ram Nath Kovind, the NDA’s candidate.