In the Rajya Sabha elections, the only hope for the Congress party is the Bharatiya Tribal Party – BTP. Only with the help of the BTP support can the two Congress candidates scrape through.
As per the arithmetic for Rajya Sabha seats – elections are going to be held for 4 vacant seats and 5 candidates are in the fray. Three from BJP and two from Congress. Out of the 182 seats in Gujarat assembly, 10 are vacant. So the Assembly has 172 seats – 103 BJP, 65 Congress, 2 BTP, one of NCP and an independent (Jignesh Mewani). So effectively, the candidate that gets 34 first preference votes, will be elected directly. In absence of it, there will be a counting of second preference and BJP has better and bigger numbers for it.
Congress has the confirmed support of 65 of its own MLAs and an Independent in Jignesh Mewani. Both the candidates can win only and only if BTP supports them. Otherwise, one of them may lose the election.
Now, Congress’s candidates for the Rajya Sabha elections are both stalwarts in their own right. Both Congress candidates – Shaktisinh Gohil and Bharatsinh Solanki have their own support base. Shaktisinh is preferred by the High Command as he is a very good orator and the party needs a good orator to attack the policies of the NDA government led by Narendra Modi. Bharatsinh, is the son of Madhavsinh Solanki who brought unmatched glory for the Congress in the ‘80s through his KHAM theory in politics. KHAM refers to the social engineering that brought together the Kshatriya (OBC), Hari*** (Dalits), Adivasi and Muslims.
The buzz is that the BJP is busy trying to convince the BTP that if they don’t want to support the BJP candidate, they can abstain from voting as this will also amount to indirectly helping the Saffron party winning the third seat. On the other hand, it is believed that Ahmed Patel himself has been wooing BTP supremo Chhotubhai Vasava.
If BJP succeeds in its efforts, the Congress party will have to decide on one candidate. So far, it is clear that Shaktisinh will be the first choice for the party High Command. But Bharatsinh is also not apparently in the mood to give up without a fight. Bharatsinh comes from the OBC Kshatriya community (mainly Thakors) – which is virtually the highest votebank for the Congress across the state. In this situation, the Congress doesn’t want to annoy a substantial chunk of its votebank as elections for local bodies in Gujarat is slated to be held around December this year. So the situation has become very tricky for the Grand Old Party.
This is the biggest dilemma for the party as they cannot afford to anger any of the two candidates. If Shaktisinh has to sacrifice, the entire Saurashtra lobby will be unhappy and if Bharatsinh has to let go, the most loyal voter base of the party may get affected. So, apparently an inside effort is on within the party to convince Bharatsinh to give qurbani. But if that happens, there are chances of a split in the party. So, the question on every party worker’s lips is – in the party’s interest Qurbani Dega Kaun??
(The author is a senior journalist with over two decades of experience covering Gandhinagar, bureaucracy and politics in Gujarat.)