It was long since people were waiting for updates on the result of an election. And it is a first for an election to a Rajya Sabha seat. This election also saw many firsts. Chief whip of a party contesting as a rebel candidate, Luxury tour for MLAs, generating huge interest in a nation that was otherwise remained in deep slumber as far as Rajya Sabha was concerned, accusing CEC as an employee of Modi and again praising EC for the decision etc.
If there is a winner in this election, it is neither Ahmed Patel, who won the election nor Amit Shah, who failed to stop Ahmed Patel; but Shankersinh Vaghela.
Of course, Amit Shah made it a personal battle against Ahmed Patel. Considering the treatment, he received from Patel for more than a decade, it is only natural for him to succumb to the prospect of a personal revenge at the cost of political calculations. And, he played a hard game. As such, winning one seat should never be a problem or even be a matter of concern for Congress, given its strength. And, the task of Amit Shah – despite his failure, was monumental and so it exposed both his strengths and weaknesses to the opponents. It started by exploiting the shabby treatment of Shankersinh Vaghela by Rahul Gandhi. It was not more than six months ago, the political scale in Gujarat was balanced between both parties. Vaghela famously declared ‘this is the best chance Congress got’.
Unfortunately, weakness of Congress remains Congress itself. If Solanki, the party chief was ambitious to encash on the prevailing mood and become chief minister, Shankarsinh Vaghela wanted a last chance to lead the fight – as Commander. Like in all such earlier instances, Rahul Gandhi played spoilsport and ensured Vaghela moving out of party fold.
At his advanced age, all Vaghela might want was only ‘respect’. Leaders of Congress, who never tire reminding BJP of the treatment of Advani – despite the availability of a better candidate (that was ultimately proven), treated Vaghela shabbily – though they agree that Solanki is not equipped to lead the party to a win in Assembly elections.
Would Vaghela join or support BJP? He has nothing to gain from joining BJP, as he would never be the CM candidate. He may support BJP and try to get some favours and positions for his supporters. True, he has some clout and still one of the mass leaders in the state. How to bring BJP to the negotiation table and talk on his terms? He played the game from both sides.
Amit Shah counted on Shankersinh Vaghela in denying a RS seat to Ahmed Patel. The first blow however, came in the form of six MLAs supporting Vaghela resigning from the Assembly. This reduced the qualifying mark to 45 from 47. Third candidate of BJP needed fifteen more votes from Vaghela as it stood before the resignations. Even in the final game, Congress rebel candidates voted for BJP, but had shown it to ‘unauthorised persons’ ensuring their votes get invalid. Expecting them to do it because of ignorance is undermining the ‘great mind’ that was behind such a remarkable way to play the game so imaginatively. For practical purposes, these two MLAs would claim they’ve cross voted and so BJP can’t question Vaghela, yet they ensured exactly what they pretended to intend.
Before assembly elections, Shankersinh Vaghela proved his capability to both parties. He would be negotiating terms of support to suit to his preferences.
However, the election also remains a case study to both BJP and Congress. First – of the winner. Congress realised the importance of hard core politicking. It was the understanding Patel had with JD(U) by getting one of their votes in favour of him that ensured he missed loss by a thin margin. The new generation leaders of Congress are like investors in stock market – expecting returns on their investment, without any labour. They lack both the ambition and perseverance that was at full display by the ageing Ahmed Patel. But, it also showed how fragile the Congress organization had become. Despite airlifting the MLAs, Congress could not ensure they vote for their candidate. If a party with 57 MLAs had to resort to resort tactics tells the hold the leadership on the party. For those who are thinking Rahul Gandhi would usher the party into a game with a new set of rules, this episode of tourism politics is a shock. The old guard will tight their hold more forcing the newbies out. This would create an immediate infighting in the party, where infighting seems to be the only constant thing.
For BJP, Amit Shah better note the negative side of hyping up publicity. He should choose battles that are worth fighting. There is no space for personal emotions in politics. Maybe there is a reason why Narasimha Rao still remains the Ultimate Chanakya. In a similar episode, he was successful in winning the trust vote – despite earning the only black mark in otherwise white tenure. If you are risking your image – ensure you taste the success. Of course, except few voices like Yashwant Sinha, there may not be any questions for Amit Shah from within BJP. Amit Shah already proved he learns from mistakes. When he lost Bihar, he immediately concentrated on UP and with an improved strategy. In a way, Ahmed Patel might have provoked Shah to devise a new strategy that may prove costly to Congress in next general elections. Considering that loss, winning one RS seat would pale in comparison.
Amit Shah may be aiming to succeed his friend-mentor in 2024. If so, it is time he learns the nuances of soft and smooth politicking. No need to open all your cards and convert a battle of wits into a battle on streets. Maybe Yogi was better in this back room manipulation, for his selection was sudden and quite opposite to the ‘Vikas’ brand of image that Modi was projecting since 2013. On his part, Yogi could not only force his place to the top post, but even started talking new language – without losing basic tenets of his core beliefs.