The politics of betrayal and money power often employed in election of Members to Rajya Sabha is nothing new for the people of Assam, but this time around the Prime Minister’s home state Gujarat is getting a strong dose of it. On August 8, three Rajya Sabha seats will be up for grabs from Gujarat, and the ruling BJP with its 125 MLAs in the 182-strong Assembly, is assured of sending party tiol president Amit Shah and Union minister Smriti Irani to the Upper House. But it is for the third seat over which a bizarre political drama has erupted in the state, with the Congress at the receiving end this time. This is because the Congress is fielding one of its key strategists and Sonia Gandhi’s long-time political secretary Ahmed Patel for a Rajya Sabha seat from Gujarat, and the BJP seems hell-bent to deny him entry for a fifth time. After Shankar Singh Waghela jolted the Congress high command by quitting the party, 5 more Congress MLAs including his son have followed suit. Balvantsinh Rajput, who was Congress chief whip in the House just the other day, has now been fielded by the BJP for the third RS seat. The Congress needs support of 47 MLAs to send Ahmed Patel to the Upper House, but is presently down to 51 MLAs and fearing more desertions. This is because in the recent election for the country’s President, Gujarat saw significant cross-voting, with as many as 11 Congress MLAs, believed to be Waghela’s supporters, voting for NDA candidate Ram th Kovind. The situation has come to such a pass that the Congress on Saturday herded 44 of its MLAs to Bengaluru ostensibly for a temple darshan tour, but which clearly appears to be a defensive tactic to stave off more Congress MLAs from getting poached by keeping them out of bounds in Congress-ruled Kartaka. After warning its MLAs that any more cross-voting in Rajya Sabha elections will invite expulsion from the party for six years, the Congress high command has now approached the Election Commission, demanding a high-level probe into alleged “horse trading” by the BJP — of the misuse of money power, muscle power and government machinery to engineer defections and resigtions of Congress MLAs. The Congress is asking how the BJP that “does not have enough MLAs to field a third candidate for Rajya Sabha”, steals an opposition MLA and puts him up as a candidate — terming it an “assault on democracy”. Well, the Congress made such number games look easy in Assam in the 15 years of its rule, with the combined Opposition in the House biting the dust each time it tried to field a common candidate. MLAs were made to vanish and then reappear miraculously in an influential minister’s car on voting day, others suddenly forgot how to cast their ballots properly while some disappeared while returning from trips and failed to vote. It just goes to show that murky goings-on continue in electing Elders to Parliament even as ruling dispensations have changed. It remains to be seen whether the Election Commission or the courts can take a hand to clean up matters.
Tussle in Gujarat