The election showed in the end that 43 of the 57 Congress MLAs stuck with the party.
The Rajya Sabha election in Gujarat that Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel has just won, despite the BJP’s extraordinary efforts to have him defeated through the use of questionable (and unconventional) means, with defection being the least of it, is a political and psychological setback for the saffron party.
For its blatant disregard of norms, this has truly been an election that will enter our electoral annals to highlight a series of actions that shouldn’t have been taken, no matter how bold or power-hungry the party managers.
In normal circumstances, this should have been an ordinary indirect election for the Upper House of Parliament, with the BJP winning two seats and the Congress the third, given the parties’ respective strength in the state Assembly.
But the BJP leadership — under party chief Amit Shah’s guidance — upped the stakes sky high in order to have a member of the Congress top brass defeated, the better to create the ground for the Assembly polls at the end of the year in which Mr Shah is working toward winning a record number of seats for his party and annihilating the Opposition.
The election showed in the end that 43 of the 57 Congress MLAs stuck with the party. The others left for factional reasons and to aid the BJP in return for incentives — to put not too fine a point on it — that have a distorting effect on democratic practices. They could be lured with relative ease as the BJP has had the state government since 1995 and appears all-conquering in Gujarat and the rest of the country since it has won some state polls legitimately and arm-twisted its way into power where it has been defeated.
The Congress candidate made it by the skin of his teeth, thanks to the Election Commission applying the law stringently and cancelling the votes of two rebel Congress MLAs. Stung by the defeat, Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani has said he would challenge the EC’s order in the Supreme Court. This seems a desperate tactic to keep the BJP ranks in good humour and to give them the impression that they were robbed of a victory that should have been theirs. It is evident, though, that the attempt to misuse power has gone half cock.
The Congress leader’s win in dramatic, nail-biting, circumstances is expected to be a shot in the arm for the depleted Congress in the coming Assembly polls, though the BJP retains the upper hand as it controls power. The party will also be psychologically boosted across the country overall. In contrast, Mr Shah’s all-conquering reputation has taken a knock. Many in the BJP may also draw quiet satisfaction from this due to the party chief’s arrogant and hectoring ways.