The recently concluded Rajya Sabha elections on August 8, 2017 with its result at 3 AM the next morning (August 9th, 2017) was a massive thriller just for one seat. With 121 seats the Bhartiya Janta Party was comfortable to win 2 Rajya Sabha seats, while the second-largest party with 51 seats was betting on one seat for the old guard of the grand-old party Ahmed Patel (Sonia Gandhi’s closest aide). With this prelude, I would like to discuss on the massive thriller for both the political parties for the first time for just one Rajya Sabha seat.
How is the Rajya Sabha elections conducted?
The Rajya Sabha elections in India are conducted in a very fashionable way. The total number of legislators divided by the number of vacant seats (+1) and the entire fraction plus one more seat is the magic number required for winning a Rajya Sabha seat.
The 181-member Gujarat Assembly has 121 BJP legislators, 57 Congress Legislators and the rest belonged to other political parties in the state. But six MLAs announced their resignation in the Assembly from the INC and some of them joined the BJP after the same. This reduced the numbers to 51 for the INC. With the exit of Shankersinh Vaghela from the party, the Congress, which was comfortable to secure one Rajya Sabha seat came in deep trouble. Vaghela exited with 10 MLAs, thereby reducing the chances of Congress getting the magic number of 45 seats to win.
This led to the ferrying of 44 Congress legislators to Karnataka under the care of D K Shiva Kumar for not allowing poaching of these MLAs by the BJP.
Why did it receive a massive mileage politically?
- Modi-Amit Shah Combine: – After taking Delhi and Bihar elections lightly, the BJP learned a lesson the hard way to never neglect an election. With a massive win in Uttar Pradesh elections and the margin in the VP elections (highest in 30 years); the BJP did not want to leave any stone unturned in the Rajya Sabha elections too. For them it was just a chance to win another seat, if they fail they have nothing to lose.
- Ahmed Patel: – The background strategist was one of the main reasons for the banishment of Narendra Modi from Gujarat politics between 1995-01 and SIT grilling for him in the Godhra riots. In 1995 when Keshubhai Patel became the CM of Gujarat, Modi was the man behind his success. But no one could see him as he was a prick in their eyes. When Shankersinh Vaghela decided to break-away from BJP for the first time, he decided to stay back only on one condition – Modi should be out of Gujarat politics. While the banishment proved to be a boon for him as he worked as the national and general secretary of the BJP and held his control in northern states of India, Ahmed Patel instigated Vaghela to split off the BJP and join the Congress. During that time, he took the MLAs to Madhya Pradesh, which was under the rule of Digvijaya Singh and helped in ousting the BJP out of power by instating Vaghela as the CM of Gujarat. This has got Modi angered against Ahmed Patel but the nail in the coffin was when Ahmed Patel pushed Modi into the SIT probe till 2013 when he was given a clean chit. Coming to Amit Shah, Ahmed Patel pushed Amit Shah out of Gujarat politics from 2010 till 2014 in the case of an encounter against Sohrabuddin Sheikh. It was only after BJP assumed power in the centre was Amit Shah allowed to re-enter Gujarat (as the charges were dropped by the CBI the same year). Amit Shah, who was considered as a successor to Narendra Modi lost his hard-earned credibility as he couldn’t participate in Gujarat politics for 4 years, which was the state where he grew from a poll booth worker to become the Home Minister of Gujarat. So, yes, this was personal against Ahmed Patel for both Modi and Amit Shah, thereby being one of the major reasons for the thriller.
- Anti-incumbency: – Gujarat has been ruled by the Bhartiya Janta Party for nearly over 20 years without a break. Despite the development rate in Gujarat under Modi, the people want a change in the government thanks to lack of aura which Modi-Shah possessed in Vijay Rupani (the current CM of Gujarat). With Anandiben Patel failing to hold the power firmly, BJP has been facing crisis since Modi assumed power in 2014 at the Centre. With the Patidar agitation (largest caste supporting BJP since decades) and the cow vigilantes have up-set the other castes in the state, the BJP was likely to lose power in the state in the December 2017 elections. With the ferrying of Gujarat MLAs to Karnataka and raid on D K Shiva Kumar’s house, the BJP used it as a chance to regain foothold in the state. All the drama unfolded showing that INC itself never trusted its own MLAs, how can the people trust was the question put in their minds by the BJP. This incident did help it to gain some ground on the anti-incumbency factor.
- Sonia-Rahul Gandhi: – Sadly, Rahul Gandhi was out of action due to high viral fever, it was a prestige issue for the INC to retain the seat for their loyalist. While Rahul Gandhi did not show interest in the election, a loss of Sonia Gandhi would be a direct implication for her to pass the baton to his son who is seeking his promotion in the grand old party. Prestige was followed by support from top cadres of the INC, making it a nail-biting thriller.
- Bihar: – With cracks in the Grand Alliance and the formation of BJP government in Bihar, Congress did not want to lose more ground on a turf where it would be fighting Assembly elections in 2017 for all 181 seats.
- Exit of Shankersinh Vaghela: – Vaghela dreamt of becoming the CM of Gujarat on the INC ticket, but was sidelined by the INC. This led to huge speculation over the fight for even one vote for the INC’s Rajya Sabha seat retention program.
- Fight for one vote: – For an instance if Ahmed Patel would have secured 43 votes, which is one less than the required magic number due to cross voting, then the election would have been in BJP’s favour as the majority party would have given 121 second preference votes to Balwansinh Rajput who was fielded against Ahmed Patel, thereby BJP securing all the three Rajya Sabha seats. This led to the drama to disqualification of two votes engineered by the INC.
The results were in favour of the BJP
- Ahmed Patel retains his seat – [Congress 1 : BJP 0]
- Sonia Gandhi retains her control over INC – [Congress 2 : BJP 0]
- INC would not consider changing its party framework – [Congress 2 : BJP 1]
- JD(U) and NCP voted for the BJP in the election resulting in diminishing Opposition – [Congress 2 : BJP 2]
- Congress morally supported D K Shiva Kumar for the timing of the raid thereby getting people doubted about their zero-tolerance on corruption stand – [Congress 2 : BJP 3]
- Anti-incumbency factor was reduced to no alternative in the December elections – [Congress 2 : BJP 4]
- Fight on the personal level was for high stakes as Congress had to save its prestige but couldn’t save from disgrace except for winning the seat – [Congress 2 : BJP 5]
- No strong Chief Minister face for the INC due to the exit of Shankersinh Vaghela and joining of his followers to the BJP – [Congress 2 : BJP 6]
The gambit wasn’t a loss for the BJP as it is portrayed, but yes, on August 8; the dance of democracy was not a clean one and a bad way to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Quit India Movement.