A Moral Victory for the Congress

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BJP paid for its confidence. On the other hand Congress had the competitive advantage of being underestimated. BJP was also underprepared despite its elaborate arrangements for the big event. While the Congress had tutored all its 44 MLAs quite well, the BJP was busy for preening and thinking of ways to harass the Congress MLAs.

The victory of Ahmed Patel, Congress president, Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary, in the Rajya Sabha polls from Gujrat amidst high drama, has come as a big morale booster for his party that is struggling to regain its old glory. The Machiavellian politics surrounding the contest turned it into one of the most important battles seen for the Upper House of the parliament in recent times.

Though Patel’s victory is not going to have any significant bearing on Congress’s strength in the Rajya Sabha it is likely to have long term impact on the party’s prospects. “It is a more of a moral victory that is certain to rejuvenate the party. For Congress’s first family Patel’s victory was a matter of prestige,” said an observer.

The machinations of the BJP turned it into a battle royale. After Shankersinh Vaghela faction of the Congress broke away bringing the Congress strength in the Gujrat House from 57 to 51, the BJP was lulled into smug belief that it had played its cards well ahead of the mother of all elections. The party was confident there was no way Patel could scrape through. Everything seemed to be going in favour of the saffron party which, after a long gap, is now the largest party in the Rajya Sabha.

In the event, however, the two invalid votes of rebel Cong MLAs turned the tables against the BJP. It was a major embarrassment because of two reasons – one that Ahmad won despite BJP’s plan and the other on account of the fact party’s polling agent was none other than Minister of State for Home, Law and Legislative Affairs Pradipsinh Jadeja. But even then it could not train the rebel MLAs in the minutiae of the polling process well enough ahead of the contest.

Jadeja reportedly had the support of some other senior leaders in getting the MLAs ready for the D Day. Yet there were two invalid votes by rebel Cong MLAs Raghavji Patel and Bhola Gohel. If not for those two invalid votes, BJP’s Balwantsinh Rajput would have been celebrating his victory now.

There is no doubt that BJP paid for its confidence. On the other hand Congress had the competitive advantage of being underestimated. It was also a case of BJP being underprepared despite its elaborate preparations for the big event. If sources are to be believed while the Congress had tutored all its 44 MLAs quite well, the BJP was more busy preening and thinking of ways to harass the Congress MLAs who had been herded away to Karnataka.

The MLAs from Shankersinh Vaghela camp who ended up showing their votes to the BJP displayed nothing but juvenile over-enthusiasm. This immediately boosted Patel’s winning chances with his strategists seizing upon the opportunity. For the Congress what was at stake was not only the prestige of Patel but also the honour party president and party matriarch, Sonia Gandhi who in the past is believed to have turned down several requests from the Gujrat strongman to retire from electoral politics.

In the event Patel’s personal equations with leaders cutting across the political spectrum also worked in his favour. In Gujrat itself he is believed to have excellent friends within the BJP who kept posting him on the developments taking place in the saffron camp. Thus the Congress, in terms of pure strategy, was always a step ahead of its rival.

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