AHMEDABAD: Congress rebel Shankersinh Vaghela‘s miscalculation about the strength of his loyalists cost the BJP one Rajya Sabha seat which went to Ahmed Patel, the lone Congress candidate and political secretary to Sonia Gandhi, in Tuesday’s epic election.
Sources said when Vaghela decided to split the Congress down the middle last month and he resigned as the leader of the opposition, he estimated that apart from his 15 core loyalists in the Congress legislature party of 57 members, there were at least a dozen more fence-sitters who would leave the party in the face of large-scale defections.
When he struck a deal with BJP president Amit Shah to give a Rajya Sabha ticket to his close relative and Congress chief whip Balwantsinh Rajput, it was with cocky confidence that Vaghela claimed that about 30 Congress MLAs would leave the “sinking ship” if they were promised BJP tickets in the forthcoming assembly elections.
It was a tempting offer for Shah, who always nursed a grudge against Patel for allegedly plotting to falsely implicate him in fake encounter cases and even getting him arrested by the CBI.
Besides, Shah felt Vaghela’s men would only help him achieve Narendra Modi‘s declared target of 150 seats for the BJP in the 182 member house when elections are held in November.
For Vaghela, who felt his political innings was over and all he needed to do was secure the future of his son and Congress MLA Mahendrasinh, this was also an opportunity to get back at his detractors in the Gujarat Congress for whom his Sangh Parivar DNA was always suspect.
There were two options: either to plot a silent coup or to trigger complete panic in the Congress. Vaghela chose the second option to assert his importance. He first gave warning signals when a dozen MLAs cross-voted for the NDA candidate Ram Nath Kovind in the presidential poll. The next move — to get six of his MLAs to resign from the assembly in late July…