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In a thrilling contest which had all the elements of a Bollywood potboiler & nerve cracking moments of a T20 match, Gujarat strong man and political secretary to Sonia Gandhi, Ahmad Patel won the much touted Rajya Sabha elections. The results were declared close to midnight after Congress & BJP both sent a battery of lawyer politicians to Election Commission office in Delhi; Congress demanding invalidation of 2 of its rebel’s votes and BJP countering Congress charges.

Carefully drafted strategy to oust Ahmad Patel

After the Presidential elections, where 11 Congress MLAs voted for NDA candidate Ram Nath Kovind, there has been intense political maneuvering in the state. First, former CM Sankersingh Vaghela (Bapu) resigned from party unhappy with leadership decision of not projecting him as CM. Thereafter 6 Congress MLAs owing allegiance to him left the party as well and joined BJP. This forced Congress to take its MLAs (44) to a safe resort in Karnataka to prevent further poaching. Karnataka minister who hosted these MLAs was raided by CBI.

Amit Shah carefully crafted a strategy to deny Ahmad Patel, political strategist to Sonia Gandhi, re-entry into Rajya Sabha. It was ‘personal’ as Patel admitted. Shah holds a grudge against Patel for his legal problems after Gujarat riots. Amit Shah was even jailed and barred from entering Gujarat at one point of time. Shah made one of the MLAs of Congress who switched camps, Balwantsinh Rajput, the third candidate for RS polls from BJP.

The Arithmetic of Polls

In an assembly strength of 176, each candidate required 45 first preference votes to win the elections. BJP with 121 MLAs had 31 surplus votes for 3rd candidate. Out of 51 Congress MLAs, 7 were expected to side with BJP, as they didn’t go to the resort in Karnataka. Ahmad Patel had hence support of 44 Congress MLAs and was banking on others (NCP & JDU) to sail through. In the end Amit Shah and Smriti Irani ended up with 46 votes each, Ahmad Patel with 44 and B. Rajput (3rd BJP candidate) with 38. Votes of two rebel Congress MLAs were declared invalid for violating the voting procedure.

Two BJP MLAs votes who voted for Congress were declared invalid, this brought down assembly strength to 174, lowering the threshold required to win from 45 to 44.

Votes Required to Win in RS   

= (No. of MLAs) divided by (No. of Seats + 1) + 1

= 176 / 4 + 1

= 44 + 1 = 45

Likely Voting Pattern in RS Polls

Party

MLAs

Amit Shah Smriti Irani Ahmad Patel B.  Rajput

Invalid

BJP

121

46

46

1 28

0

INC

51

0

0

41 8

2

NCP

2

0

0

1 1

0

GPP

1

0

0

0 1

0

JDU

1

0

0

1  

0

Total

176

46 46 44 38 2

Source: www.politicalbaba.com

Three Tactical Errors Committed By BJP

  1. Amit Shah & Smriti Irani got 1 extra votes each

It was expected to be a nail biting finish from the word go. Every vote counted. When only 45 votes were required to win, Shah and Smriti both got 1 vote each. Essentially meaning 2 votes of BJP were wasted. Was it due to miscommunication or deliberate? It could have been that BJP played safe and kept some cushion for Shah and Smriti in case any vote was declared invalid. However, if votes are declared invalid, the threshold required to sail through might have also reduced accordingly.

  1. Attention not paid on training of rebel MLAs

As expected by BJP, 2 MLAs of Patel camp also turned against Congress and voted for BJP. Without going into what sort of influence was used to lure these MLAs, this was indeed a major coup for Shah. This would have ensured, Ahmad Patel secured 44 and Balwant Rajput 40 (see chart above). Patel would have fallen short by 1 vote (45 required to win). Then the second preference votes would have been taken into account where Patel would have lost because of sheer numbers of BJP.

However, BJP didn’t teach the rebel MLAs basics of voting in Rajya Sabha elections. The two MLAs had shown their ballot papers to Amit Shah after voting (for confirmation perhaps) rather than to their authorized polling agent. They forgot they were still in Congress. This boosted the chances of Patel.

  1. BJP busy in breaking into opposition camp, forgot to take care of their own backyard

I again repeat that these polls were always expected to be a photo-finish. Each vote counted. One rebel BJP MLA, Nalin Kotadiya, who had voted against Ram Nath Kovind in Presidential elections again cross voted for Congress’s Ahmad Patel as per NDTV report. He has been unhappy with the BJP’s handling of Patidar agitation in which 14 youth died. BJP should have made efforts to cajole him back into supporting official candidate.

What now for Gujarat Polls?

This entire exercise has rejuvenated Congress and instilled a sense of unity among party cadre. 7-8 of its MLAs will resign and move to BJP over the next few weeks or it may itself suspend these rebels in a stern action. While this will have limited impact on state poll results expected by end of the year, Congress has won a psychological battle for now.

The resort politics has made a comeback after a while. The desire to gain power and ability to manage MLAs from opposition camp has resulted in BJP forming governments in Arunachal, Manipur and Goa. This will put off a section of its young educated voters at national level. It’s not a party with a difference, in fact in many ways it is the new Congress, for a section of its voters.

BJP will go to courts, a final decision can however take some time. Hence, the last on these polls is not out yet.

It is a personal setback for Amit Shah, missed the victory line by a whisker. In the end, he is human as well and can err…

This article was first published in TheQuint.

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