Who is the 44th voter of Ahmed Patel?

The Hindu

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He may be either a JD(U) or NCP MLA

Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel may have won a high-stakes Rajya Sabha battle against great odds, but the mystery about the one extra vote that proved decisive for him still remains amid claims and counterclaims and speculation.

Mr. Patel received a total of 44 votes to win the prestigious fight that saw him pitched against BJP’s Amit Shah, known for his election and political strategies.

Now, only 43 legislators of the Congress voted for Mr. Patel while the one who cast the 44th vote to ensure his victory is still not known.

The two possibilities are that the extra vote came either from the lone JD(U) legislator Chhotubhai Vasava, who made a series of flip-flops during the day of voting, or from NCP’s Jayant Patel, who openly claimed he voted for the Congress candidate.

‘Tribal people ignored’

“I have voted for Ahmedbhai because the BJP in its 22-year-old rule in Gujarat has always ignored the tribal community,” Mr. Vasava said after the voting was over on Tuesday.

However, Mr. Vasava was escorted to the polling venue by BJP leaders I.K. Jadeja and Bharatsinh Parmar and before he reached Gandhinagar to cast his vote, he travelled in a car with Congress leaders.

Both, the BJP and a section of Congress leaders claim that Mr. Vasava voted for them despite his flip-flops.

Interestingly, Mr. Ahmed Patel had gone to “thank” Chhotubhai Vasava immediately after he cast his ballot in the State capital.

However, before the voting, Mr. Vasava had told The Hindu that “he was undecided who to vote for because party leader Nitish Kumar had asked him to vote for the BJP candidate while Sharad Yadav had told him to back Ahmed Patel.”

As for the NCP, it has two legislators in Gujarat who each voted for each party. Kutiyana legislator Kandhal Jadeja publicly said he voted for the BJP candidate and he even touched the feet of Mr. Amit Shah while arriving at the voting booth to cast his ballot.

Another legislator Jayant Patel said he voted for the Congress nominee because the NCP was part of the UPA alliance nationally.

Following the voting, the NCP even issued a press statement saying one of its legislators voted against the party whip.

The party also claimed that the whip was issued to both legislators to vote for Mr. Ahmed Patel.

There is another speculation also regarding the claim of the Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) MLA Nalin Kotadia, who said he had voted against the BJP. However, BJP leaders have categorically denied cross-voting by Mr. Kotadia and termed his claim as meant to placate his Patidar community, which is on a collision course with the ruling party over the issue of reservation. Before the Rajya Sabha polls, the Congress had 57 legislators in the Assembly, more than enough to ensure Mr. Patel’s fifth term in the upper house. However, just ahead of the battle, Leader of the Opposition Shankersinh Vaghela resigned from the party, opening the flood of resignations and defections from the party. Immediately after Mr. Vaghela’s open rebellion, six Congress legislators resigned from the Assembly, bringing down the party’s strength to 51.

Out of those six who resigned, Mr. Balwantsinh joined the saffron party and became the BJP’s third candidate, which necessitated a contest instead of the unopposed election of members based on pro rata basis.

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