Rebellion during Rajya Sabha polls might help Congress in ticket sharing | assembly elections | Gujarat 2017 | Hindustan Times
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Rebellion during Rajya Sabha polls might help Congress in ticket sharing

The Congress will need to do a lot more to prevent a split in its average 40% vote-base against the BJP’s 48; the party has to do a Mamata Banerjee to defeat Modi on his home turf.

GujaratElection2017 Updated: Nov 11, 2017 09:10 IST
Vinod Sharma
Vinod Sharma
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
RS polls,Rajya Sabha,Gujarat Assembly Elections 2017
Looking back, the Trojan horses that threatened the Congress with a loss of face — which Ahmed Patel’s (in pic) defeat would have been — has created space for co-option and experimentation.(File)

Ticket distribution in election season is a messy affair the Congress’s capable of turning messier. One remembers the way it managed to lose Punjab in 2012.

It’ll be self-immolation again if the party goes wrong in selection of candidates in Gujarat. Of the 57 MLAs it had in the outgoing House, 14 rebelled in the nail-biting Rajya Sabha poll that saw Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel scrape through.

In a way, the ferment Shankarsinh Vaghela stoked in the Congress has transferred the turncoats’ weight to the BJP. How the saffron party will make room for them in its citadel for 22 years is a quandary it could have done without.

Looking back, the Trojan horses that threatened the Congress with a loss of face-which Ahmed Patel’s defeat would’ve been — has created space for co-option and experimentation. The cushion could be variously used: to set up fresh faces of its own or meet demands of caste identities stewarded by Hardik Patel, Jignesh Mevani and Alpesh Thakor.

To some the trinity would seem more reliable than the Nationalist Congress Party of Maratha strongman Sharad Pawar. By all accounts, the NCP with two MLAs let the Congress down in Ahmed Patel’s prestige battle.

Pawar’s party can be slippery. But in politics, there are no permanent friends or enemies. It’ll be helpful therefore to draw the NCP into the anti-BJP equation.

From the hints one’s picking up, the BJP’s game will be to divide the anti-incumbency vote. One way it can do so is by encouraging the NCP, BSP and the Vaghela rump to field candidates. Estranged as it is from its senior coalition partner in Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena has already decided to enter the scrimmage for what it calls Gujarat’s ‘hardline Hindutva’ voter.

It’s difficult to say which way the Sena knife will cut. But a crowded race is always good news for the BJP.

As the date for the first round of polling gets closer, it’s engrossing to check whether the BJP will again expend 35-40 of its sitting MLAs, as was the case during the long Modi rein in Gujarat? From the Congress’s standpoint, repeating the 40-odd legislators it has would be in order, given that they stood by the party in testing times.

Of those who dumped the Congress, a few had crossed over from the Janata Dal with Chimanbhai Patel or were Vaghela’s acolytes since his BJP days. They both had stints as chief ministers with Congress support in the 1990s and later joined the party. What Vaghela did is history. But Chimanbhai died a Congressman.

In that sense, the RS poll was an osmosis that rid the party of political converts. “Yes, you can call it purification,” conceded a Gujarat-based BJP veteran.

But the Congress will need to do a lot more to prevent a split in its average 40% vote-base against the BJP’s 48. Without ingenious poll tie-ups and candidatures, it cannot easily attract social groups hit by the economic slump post-GST and demonetisation.

The party has to do a Mamata Banerjee to defeat Modi on his home turf. Against a rival with mammoth power and resources, that’s easier said than done!

First Published: Nov 11, 2017 07:27 IST