AHMEDABAD: Battlelines drawn for Tuesday’s crucial Rajya Sabha election, two meetings are on in Gujarat this afternoon. While BJP chief Amit Shah is meeting the party’s legislators in Ahmedabad, the Congress’ Ahmed Patel met his party’s MLAs at a resort in Anand, about 76 km away. Both Mr Shah and Mr Patel are contesting the Rajya Sabha elections tomorrow. With the BJP’s big numbers in the Gujarat assembly, Amit Shah will breeze through and make his Parliament debut. Ahmed Patel is doing a head count.
1.At 4.30 this morning, 43 Congress legislators flew back to Ahmedabad from Bangalore where they had been taken to prevent any more defections after six MLAs quit the party, putting Mr Patel’s re-election to the Rajya Sabha in jeopardy.
2.Ahmed Patel, who is political secretary to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, received the MLAs at the airport, from where they were driven to the Neejanand Resort in Anand in two buses. “We are confident of victory. All MLAs are with us,” Mr Patel said.
3.The Congress is counting on the votes of two legislators from Sharad Pawar’s NCP. But last night, the party’s senior leader Praful Patel said that they have not yet decided which side to vote for. “I just got the message that they (NCP) have announced support and will issue a whip as well,” Mr Patel said today.
4.In the 182-member Gujarat Assembly, the strength of the Congress has gone down to 51 from 57 after the six legislators resigned allegedly as a plan scripted by local heavyweight Shankersinh Vaghela, who exited the party last month after it refused to project him for chief minister in assembly elections later this year.
5.The Congress needs to ensure at least 45 MLAs support Ahmed Patel in tomorrow’s vote, with the strength of Gujarat Assembly now at 176. Sources in the BJP said they expect two to three from the 44 sequestered by the Congress to vote against Mr Patel, which will make it very tough for the Congress A-lister.
6.The Congress has warned that any move to defy the party’s order to vote for Mr Patel will attract heavy penalty, including legal action that could mean being barred from contesting elections. At least 11 Congress MLAs had voted for the BJP’s nominee Ram Nath Kovind in the presidential election last month instead of Meira Kumar, backed by the opposition.
7.The BJP has fielded Amit Shah and union minister Smriti Irani for the two seats it will win with ease. For the third, it has fielded Balwantsinh Rajput to take on Ahmed Patel. Mr Rajput is one of the six who quit the Congress a few days ago; he is also related to Mr Vaghela.
8.Shankersinh Vaghela, who remains a legislator has sent out mixed signals on how he will vote tomorrow. The Congress says that its whip or formal order in the assembly to vote for Ahmed Patel applies to Mr Vaghela too.
9.While Mr Vaghela told NDTV that he remains good friends with Ahmed Patel and has been in regular touch with him, he has emphatically denied that he has had any contact with Amit Shah. Mr Vaghela is a former BJP leader, but insists that he is equidistant from both the Congress and the BJP currently.
10.The BJP has rubbished the Congress’ allegation that it is coercing and attempting to bribe the opposition party’s MLAs to scuttle Ahmed Patel’s re-election.