Two weeks ahead of crucial Rajya Sabha polls in Gujarat, Congress suffered another massive jolt as three more MLAs - Mansingh Chouhan, Chhanabhai Chaudhary and Ramsinh Parmar - quit the party on Friday.
Earlier on Thursday, three Congress MLAs - Balwantsinh Rajput, Tejashree Patel and Prahlad Patel - had resigned from the party to join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
All these MLAs except Ramsinh Parmar joined the BJP after submitting their resignations to Speaker Ramanlal Vora on Friday morning and Thursday afternoon.
As far as Parmar is concerned, it is still not clear whether he will join the BJP or not though the political observers also expect him to join the saffron party soon.
Balwantsinh Rajput was soon declared Rajya Sabha candidate by the saffron party.
Rajput, who was Chief whip of the Congress in state Assembly, has filed his nomination papers against veteran Congress leader Ahmed Patel.
Patel could have a tough run in his bid to the Rajya Sabha this time around. The Congress has re-nominated Patel, political secretary to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, for the August 8 polls. This comes just few days after senior Congress leader Shankersinh Vaghela resigned from the party.
Tough fight for Ahmed Patel
Of the total 11 Rajya Sabha members from Gujarat, the term of three- Smriti Irani and Dilipbhai Pandya (both BJP) and Congress' Ahmed Patel- comes to an end on August 18. The BJP has nominated party president Amit Shah and Union Minister Smriti Irani for two seats and has announced to support Patel’s rival candidate.
Patel's first-term in the Rajya Sabha began in 1993 and if re-elected, the 67-year-old leader would become a member of the Upper House of Parliament for the fifth time. Talking to reporters after filing his nomination papers on Wednesday, Patel expressed confidence that he would win comfortably despite the cross-voting seen during the recently-held presidential polls. 11 Congress MLAs had voted for NDA nominee Ram Nath Kovind.
However, the fight for the veteran leader is not easy this time as several of the Gujarat Congress MLAs are in open revolt against the party leadership. If Balwantsinh Rajput, considered close to Vaghela, succeeds in securing support of a dozen MLAs, he could make a difference in the polls. Any setback to Patel would come as a huge embarrassment for the Congress which is fast losing political ground in the country.
Gujarat Rajya Sabha polls: Numbers Speak
Sources say that Rajput decided to contest the polls after Vaghela’s assurance of the support of 25 Congress MLAs. At the end, it will all depend on Vaghela's clout and how much votes he can swing in Rajput's favour. There are also reports that 10-15 more Congress MLAs could resign from the party before the Rajya Sabha polls.