The then newly-elected Congress Rajya Sabha member Ahmed Patel waves as he takes part in Indian Youth Congress...Read More
MP and Congress
Ahmed Patel, who passed away on Wednesday, was considered the party’s master political strategist, chief trouble-shooter and the go-to man in times of crises. However, he himself faced the most difficult election of his life in August 2017.
Patel won his last Rajya Sabha election for the fifth consecutive term from his home state Gujarat by a whisker.
Elections were held for two Rajya Sabha seats in Gujarat that year. Union home minister
, who was the then BJP president, and Patel were contesting for the two seats. Patel was Congress president
While Shah is known as the modern Chanakya of Indian politics, Patel was considered the Congress’s Chanakya. Moreover, both of them belong to Gujarat. Therefore, the 2017 Gujarat Rajya Sabha election became a high-prestige battle between two titans.
Both Shah and Patel would have easily won the election as both the BJP and the Congress had more than sufficient numbers of MLAs. But the BJP made the election tough for Patel by fielding a third candidate - Balwantsinh Rajput - who was Congress’s chief whip in the state assembly till he filed his nomination papers for the polls.
Rajput resigned both as the Congress’s chief whip and as party’s MLA to contest on the BJP’s symbol.
Rajput was not the only loss that the Congress suffered in the election. Before the Rajya Sabha election was announced, the party had 57 MLAs in the 183-member state assembly. By the time the election was held, it lost the support of 15 MLAs - while 13 MLAs resigned, other two indulged in cross-voting.
While Patel’s victory was hard won, the Congress suffered a major loss as among the 15 MLAs who did not support him included Shankersinh Vaghela, who was the leader of opposition in the state assembly.
Due to the fear of poaching, the Congress ferried all its 44 MLAs to a resort in Bengaluru at a time when several parts of Gujarat were reeling under floods and these people’s representatives needed to be back home.
Luck favoured Patel when the election was finally held. Of the 44 Congress MLAs, two indulged in cross-voting.
Patel would have lost had the two rebel MLAs not shown their voting slips to unauthorised people. The matter reached the Election Commission and their votes were rendered invalid.
Patel still garnered 44 votes - exactly the number needed to win the election. He got two more votes than he would have received had one each MLA of the NCP and JD(U) not voted for him. In fact, JD(U) MLA Chhotu Vasava defied the party whip and indulged in cross-voting.
The Congress was made to realise the importance of one NCP vote by its leader Majid Memon who said the party should remember that Ahmed Patel won because of its one vote, “otherwise it would have been very embarrassing for them”.
Patel too admitted how difficult it was to win the election. After the results were declared, he said, "It was the most difficult election of my life. I salute my MLAs and people of the state…”
Though Patel managed to win the election, it exposed the vulnerability of the Congress’s top leaders. It was reflected in the 2019
elections when the then party president
lost his traditional Amethi seat.