Even as Congress candidate Ahmed Patel exuded confidence that he will win his Rajya Sabha seat comfortably, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) today decided to support rival BJP candidate in high-stakes battle. Announcing the party's decision to support BJP, NCP MLA Kandhal Jadeja said he has been asked by the party leadership to vote for Balvantsinh Rajput, Ahmed Patel's rival in tomorrow's polls. Jadeja said he received a phone call from party high command on Monday evening to vote in favour of BJP candidate Rajput, a former Congress MLA who joined the BJP after resigning from the Assembly and the party.
Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel, the high-profile political secretary to Sonia Gandhi, is seeking a fifth Rajya Sabha term from Gujarat. The election has become interesting since the exit of Congress strongman Shankersinh Vaghela and resignation of six MLAs of the party in the last few days, bringing down its tally in the 182-member House from 57 to 51. Three of these MLAs later joined the BJP, which has fielded one of them in the RS polls.
The Sharad Pawar-led party, which had a pre-poll alliance with the Congress for the 2012 Assembly polls in the state, currently has two MLAs--Kandhal Jadeja and Jayant Patel. Ironically, the two NCP MLAs had accompanied Patel when he filed his nomination.
Earlier today, Ahmed Patel said that he has the support tow NCP MLAs.
"This poll is not at all about anyone's prestige. I have full faith in my MLAs. Apart from these 44 (Congress) legislators, two of NCP and one of JD(U) would give their vote to me," he said in response to a query on how he would get the magic number of 45 to win the poll.
Senior NCP leader Praful Patel had yesterday said that his party has not decided yet about extending support to any party in the August 8 Rajya Sabha polls in Gujarat. Earlier today, the NCP sources had said that the party would take the final call on voting only tomorrow.
In the August 8 polls, the BJP has fielded its president Amit Shah and Union minister Smriti Irani on two seats, and Congress defector Balwantsinh Rajput on the third against Ahmed Patel. Patel requires 45 votes to win the election.
Though the Congress has claimed it has the support of 44 MLAs, remaining seven of the party's 51 legislators, who are not in Bengaluru, have not put their cards on table yet.
The BJP, with 121 MLAs in the House, can easily get Shah and Irani elected. However, the party falls 14 short of the 45 votes required for Rajput's victory.
Besides NCP's two MLAs, JD(U) MLA Chotubhai Vasava's vote is also crucial in the polls. He has been saying that he will only support those who will give something to his constituency.