Published On: Mon, Aug 7th, 2017

NCP to vote for BJP, Ahmed Patel’s RS fate hangs in balance

Ahmedabad/New Delhi: In a blow to the Congress in Gujarat and a further setback for Ahmed Patel’s attempt to enter the Rajya Sabha for the fifth term, an NCP MLA said he and his party colleague have been asked to vote for the BJP.

The latest development muddies the situation for Patel

Nationalist Congress Party MLA Kandhal Jadeja told local TV that they had been asked by senior party leaders to vote for BJP’s Balvantsinh Rajput in Tuesday’s Rajya Sabha election.

The latest development muddies the situation for Patel, political secretary to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, with the BJP all out to stymie his efforts in the biennial elections.

Earlier, the 44 Congress MLAs, who were flown to Bengaluru to prevent “poaching” by the BJP, returned to the state on Monday.

They were moved to the Nijanand Resort near Anand. Their family members visited the resort for the Raksha Bandhan festival.

Of the 57 party legislators in the 182-member Gujarat Assembly, six quit the party on July 26 and three of them joined the Bharatiya Janata Party on July 28. Of the remaining 51 MLAs, seven, including Shankersinh Vaghela, did not join those who were flown to Bengaluru.

Patel, who needs 45 first preference votes in a House with an effective strength of 176 MLAs, expressed confidence that he will win the election with the support of 44 party MLAs, and the backing of two NCP and a lone JD-U member.

“I have spoken to (NCP chief) Sharad Pawarji and he has promised all help to the Congress. They have even issued a whip. As for Vaghela, he has himself promised that he will vote for me and I believe he will keep his word,” he said.

On Tuesday, the legislators will directly go to state capital Gandhinagar to vote for Ahmed Patel.

BJP chief Amit Shah and Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani are contesting the other two seats, which the BJP is sure to win. The party fielded Congress defector Balwantsinh Rajput as the third candidate in its bid to defeat Patel.

Gujarat has seldom experienced political suspense since 1995 when the first BJP government came to power, and after Prime Minister Narendra Modi who has fortified the state like a fiefdom. All the 26 Lok Sabha candidates in the state are from Modi’s party.

Problems started when Congress veteran, the maverick 77-year-old Vaghela, called it quits at a public show of strength on his July 21 birthday over not being made the chief ministerial candidate for the 2017 assembly elections and not being handed over the complete reins of the campaign.

 

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