Infighting in Gujarat Congress over Rajya Sabha polls

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A tug of war has started in the Gujarat unit of the Congress over whom it will choose between two candidates for the lone Rajya Sabha seat it can win from the state after a raft of resignations by its legislators dashed its hopes of wining half the four seats up for grabs in the June 19 elections to the upper House.

Eight Congress legislators have resigned from the assembly since March, and apart from two other vacancies due to court cases over poll-related disputes, the effective strength of the 182-member Gujarat assembly now stands at 172.

The Congress, with 65 legislators, is now in a position to win just one seat while both Bharatsinh Solanki and Shaktisinh Gohil remain in the fray for election to the Rajya Sabha from the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah. A candidate will need 35 votes to get elected to the House.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), with 103 legislators, is comfortably placed to win three seats. It has fielded Abhay Bhardwaj, Ramilaben Bara and Narhari Amin.

The Congress’s predicament has triggered a show of strength between supporters of Solanki and Gohil.

A Gujarat Congress leader said on the condition of anonymity that 42 of the 65 legislators back Solanki and would vote for him.

“Though the final decision rests with the party high command there is also a possibility that Gohil might announce his withdrawal from the contest if all other options dry up,” he said.

Asked to elaborate on the options, the leader claimed that some “disgruntled” BJP legislators might cross-vote in favour of the Congress candidate.

“Wait and watch,” he said.

However, a Gujarat BJP functionary rubbished the claim. “The Congress is daydreaming. Unlike Congress, there are no disgruntled legislators in BJP,” the functionary said, requesting anonymity.

The Congress is also banking on the support of the Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP) which has two legislators, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) with one and independent legislator Jignesh Mevani.

The Rajya Sabha elections to 55 seats were earlier scheduled to be held on March 26 but deferred due to the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent imposition of the nationwide lockdown from March 25.

While 37 candidates were later declared elected unopposed, polls were to be held for the remaining 18 seats – four each from Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat, three each from Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, two from Jharkhand and one each from Meghalaya and Manipur.

The Election Commission later clubbed four Rajya Sabha seats from Karnataka and one each from Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram and the elections to all the 24 Rajya Sabha seats will now be held on June 19.

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