The Gujarat Rajya Sabha Elections were held on 8th August 2017. The previous three members of the Rajya Sabha, Ahmed Patel (INC), Smriti Irani (BJP) and Dilip Pandya (BJP), were set to retire on 18th August 2017. Amit Shah, who was standing for the first time in the Rajya Sabha elections, was a clear favorite for one of the three vacant seats. Also, Smriti Irani seemed likely to keep her post. The third BJP member standing was Balwantsinh Rajput, who faced the previous upper house member, the leader of the Congress Party of Gujarat, Ahmed Patel. Also, BJP was handed a major boost when the veteran leader of Congress, Shankarsinh Vaghela and other two MLAs, decided to ditch Congress and joined hands with the rival party, BJP. This led to chaos among the Congress Party just a few days before the elections. This was a must-win election for the struggling Congress party.
The elections took place as per the scheduled date and time on 8th August 2017 between 9 am- 4 pm. As per the report of the Reporting Officer of the Election Commission, 176 out of 182 elected members of Legislative Assembly of Gujarat voted for the elections. The remaining 6 seats being vacant did not vote. The usually quiet polls for the Upper chamber of the Parliament turned chaotic when the election agent of the Congress party, Shailesh Parmar, submitted two written applications to the Reporting Officer for the rejection of votes of two voters, Bholabhai Gohil and Raghavjibhai Patel, for violation of the procedure laid down under rule 39AA of the Conduct Of Election Rules, as they showed their marked ballot papers to the persons other than the authorized representatives. The Congress wanted these votes to be rejected as the two Congress MLAs had voted for BJP. The EC finally gave the decision to reject the two votes.
Ahmed Patel, who previously needed 45 votes to win, now only needed 44 due to two invalid votes. This lead to a ray of hope among the Congress Party. As the results of the poll came out, Amit Shah and Smriti Irani won easily with both getting 46 votes each. However, the main battle was between Ahmed Patel and Balwantsinh Rajput. Due to two Congress MLAs cross voting, Ahmed Patel got 43 votes from the UPA, while Balwantsinh Rajput got 37 votes. Now the thing is who got the 44th vote for Ahmed Patel? The two members of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), who had shown support in favor of BJP before the elections, split their votes each to the Congress and the BJP. This lead to Ahmed Patel getting the required vote and thus he retained his seat for another term at the Upper House of the Parliament.
On 9th August, at 1.50 am, Ahmed Patel tweeted “Satyamev Jayte,” saying he had won. He also said on Wednesday that his re-election to the Rajya Sabha from Gujarat exposed the ruling BJP’s “personal vendetta and political terror”. In a series of tweets after the results were announced well past midnight, Patel said legislators who backed him “voted for inclusive India”.
What went wrong for the BJP in Gujarat Rajya Sabha Election?
Usually brilliant with his strategies and considered invincible, the President of the BJP, Amit Shah won’t be happy with the results of the elections after their strategies to defeat Ahmed Patel failed. The failure of various political stratagems used to defeat Ahmed Patel goes beyond being a mere blow to his reputation of coming up with winning electoral magic. It also showed that the battered Congress party has walked away with more than a face-saver from what would have been a routine election. It was Shah, who planned the BJP’s strategy for the elections. This time his target was Sonia Gandhi’s former secretary Ahmed Patel. Ahmed Patel was quoted saying “Amit Shah has a personal grudge against me.” It is said that the BJP president was confident that Ahmed Patel had played a major role in him being jailed in 2010 in Sohrabbudin encounter case and that it was time to “settle the scores”. The battle was thus converted from being just a Rajya Sabha seat to high stake one, with Shah wanting to target Ahmed Patel’s inner circle.
The strategy was proving successful, when at the end of the last month, six Congress members, including the veteran leader, Shankarsinh Vaghela decided to ditch Congress and join hands with their fierce rivals BJP. One of these six loyalists, Balwantsinh Rajput, was fielded in opposition of Ahmed Patel. Till then, it was almost decided that one Congressman and two BJP leaders would get elected. But after this decision, it seemed serious that all three elected members might be of BJP and that Shah was serious about defeating Ahmed Patel. This is when 44 MLAs of Congress were taken to a Bengaluru resort and were ensured that BJP was trying to buy their MLAs. After few days of this meeting in the resort, it was raided by the income tax department. Congress party claimed that BJP was behind all this.
Shah was successful in convincing two of the Congress loyalties to vote for Balwantsinh Rajput. Everything was going planned until they were videographed showing ballot papers to unauthorized persons, which eventually led to the disqualification of their votes. This led to Ahmed Patel winning against all the odds. For Shah, his strategy would have worked perfectly if the two of the cross voters had not been caught. However, this marks a lesson of more efficiency and cautiousness for the BJP and Shah.
What will Gujarat Rajya Sabha Elections results effect?
This has to be a big blow for the BJP, as these elections showed that the Legislative Assembly Elections of Gujarat, which are set to take place later this year, won’t be just an easy ride. On the other hand, these elections would boost the confidence of the Congress Party, who can look forward to the elections with a bit more optimism. Also, the big loss of Shankarsinh Vaghela has been nullified by Ahmed Patel’s win. Can this election prove to be a turning point in their fortunes? Too early to say, but it will surely benefit them in the preparation of the upcoming assembly elections.