With Gujarat Congress stalwart Shankersinh Vaghela quitting the party and 11 Congress legislators having cross-voted for the NDA presidential nominee — a Damocles sword now hangs over the Rajya Sabha prospects of party supremo Sonia Gandhi’s political adviser Ahmed Patel. Ahmed Patel, who is expected to seek a fourth term in the Rajya Sabha elections slated for August 8, will need 48 first preference votes to win.
If the voting pattern of the presidential poll in Gujarat continues, Patel might face sure defeat. Patel’s current tenure ends on August 18 along with that of Union Minister Smriti Irani and Dilip Pandya of the BJP. The counting of votes for the presidential election revealed that of the 181 votes polled, NDA’s Ram Nath Kovind secured 132 votes and Congress-led opposition candidate Meira Kumar 49 votes. Congress has 57 MLAs in the 182-seat Gujarat Assembly, the ruling BJP 122, Nationalist Congress Party two and Janata Dal-United one legislator.
The JD-U legislator had abstained from voting. The NCP had backed Meira Kumar, while BJP rebel legislator Nalin Kotadiya claimed he did not vote for the NDA candidate. If these three votes are considered to have been cast in favour of Meira Kumar, the number of Congress legislators who voted against their official candidate would be 11.
Vaghela is believed to have the support of at least a dozen MLAs, while a local Gujarati news portal quoted a state intelligence bureau source to claim he enjoys the backing of as many as 42-odd legislators of the 57 of the Congress party. Among these are Vaghela, his son Mahendrasinh Vaghela, and two others present at the Friday show. This is besides two MLAs of the NCP who were there.
Significantly, Shankersinh Vaghela declared at the 77th birthday event at the Town Hall grounds on Friday that he would resign as Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly immediately, but would quit as a legislator after the Rajya Sabha elections. The filing of nominations for the biennial election started on Friday.