In a dramatic turn of events in the high stakes Rajya Sabha elections in Gujarat, Congress leader Ahmed Patel emerged victorious to make it to the Upper House for the fifth time on the strength of first preference votes.
After his victory in what was more of a prestige battle for him, Ahmed Patel said that “BJP stands exposed of personal vendetta and political terror”.
"Satyameva Jayate. This is not just my victory. It is a defeat of the most blatant use of money power, muscle power and abuse of state machinery," said Patel on Twitter.
Also Read: Gujarat Rajya Sabha election results: Congress upbeat as Ahmed Patel retains seat for 5th term in prestige battle
"I want to thank each and every MLA who voted for me despite unprecedented intimidation and pressure from BJP. They voted for an inclusive India," he added.
He also said it was one of his most difficult elections. "This was a tough election, but we fought it like a family."
Patel also said: "BJP stands exposed of personal vendetta and political terror. People of Gujarat will give them a befitting reply in this year's election."
Patel, the political advisor of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, said that the party will be strengthened and emerge victorious in this year's assembly election in Gujarat under the leadership of party Vice President Rahul Gandhi.
Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said: "Treachery,immorality and misuse of state power has been defeated in Gujarat at the altar of truth and principles."
"Scheming failed, principles won. Arrogance was defeated in Mahatma Gandhi's land," he added on Twitter.
Surjewala further said: "It is an eye-opener for the BJP to not misuse and brutalise democracy, not misuse state power, not be arrogant about money power and to respect the mandate of the people."
While Patel retained his seat, BJP President Amit Shah and Union minister Smriti Irani also emerged victorious in the election.
Shah will enter the Parliament as a member for the first time, while Irani will return for a second term.
Ahmed Patel's win is being considered a major victory for the Congress and a blow for the BJP.
Congress had made candidature of Ahmed Patel as a matter of prestige. The BJP also left no stone unturned to win all the three seats.
The saffron pitted Balwantsinh Rajput, a recent acquisition from the Congress, against Ahmed Patel knowing that Patel's defeat will bring huge embarrassment for Sonia Gandhi since he is her political secretary.
After the intense political developments, the Election Commission (EC) declared results for the three seats of the Rajya Sabha from Gujarat. Total 176 MLAs voted in the crucial elections, but two votes were declared invalid.
The EC on late Tuesday night declared votes of two Congress MLAs- Bhola Bhai Gohil and Raghav Bhai Patel- invalid. The decision was taken on a complaint of the Congress.
Earlier in the evening, Congress had complained to the EC and said that two of its MLAs- Bhola Bhai Gohil and Raghav Bhai Patel- showed their votes to unauthorized persons and demanded their votes should not be counted and should be rejected.
Congress said these MLAs showed their votes to Shah and Irani and independent candidate Balwantsinh Rajput instead of representative of Ahmed Patel.
Why Ahmed Patel’s victory is significant
A low key leader who keeps away from the media, Patel, 67 is the party’s tallest leader in the state and is considered a master strategist considered key to UPA’s electoral victories at the Centre in 2004 and 2009. Moreover, he is the only Congress leader to have worked with three generations of the Gandhi family and his loss, by all means, would have marked a serious dent to the falling graph of the Congress. However, with the results turning out contrary to widely held expectations, this could be just spark the momentum the Congress needed desperately.
Patel’s political journey began when he became the youngest parliamentarian to win a Lok Sabha seat from Bharuch in Gujarat in 1977, at the age of 26. His victory came at a time when the Congress party was beaten by the Janata Party after Indira Gandhi’s Emergency. All the party’s top leaders, including Gandhi herself, had been defeated.
Patel, a trusted aide of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, has been a Rajya Sabha MP from Bharuch seat since 1993. The Rajya Sabha victory also comes as a boost to his reputation, besides strengthening the party’s chances in the upcoming state elections.
Boost to Congress
Contrary to the developments seen in the state in the past two weeks or so, the Congress’s last-minute efforts to keep their flock together appear to have worked in its favour. Hit by six defections in a span of less than three days, the Congress had herded 44 of its MLAs to a resort in Bengaluru. Shankarsingh Vaghela, the strategist considered key to this battle, today reiterated that his calls to the top leadership over concerns that MLAs could quit the party were met with a cold response.
The victory is significant not just for the upcoming Gujarat Assembly elections, but also comes as a boost to Congress’ hopes of countering the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party which decimated it in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections to storm to power.
The victory will also strengthen the image of Rahul Gandhi as a leader of the party and may even hasten his formal elevation to the post of party president. More importantly, it will strengthen the morale of the party’s rank and cadre which has been at an abysmal low following successive losses in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand and missing out in Manipur and Goa despite emerging as the single largest party.
For the BJP, the results will come as a disappointment, rare but significant nevertheless. The poll battle was being seen as a direct fight between party president Amit Shah and Patel – both prominent faces from Gujarat. Having lost this high-stake battle, the BJP will need to get its grip back ahead of the Assembly elections in the state next year. The BJP should well know that any complacency could cost it dearly in the state which is also home to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
That is something the BJP can certainly ill-avoid.