It seems in the historic elections of 2019, the grand old party wants to make a name for failed alliances. The politically crucial state of Gujarat has been a BJP stronghold since the past many years. In order to attempt to make a tap into the state this time, Congress decided to ally with Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP), a party formed in 2017. The bone of contention between the two parties is the Bharuch seat, which has been the bastion of Congress treasurer and former political secretary of Sonia Gandhi, Ahmed Patel. This is the same seat that is being desired by Chottubhai Vasava, leader of BTP.
Given 2014’s poll results, wherein BJP had won all 26 Gujarat seats to Lok Sabha, Congress needed a miracle to try and get in the league this time. The grand old party figured BTP will help them in their popularity. BTP had managed to win 2 seats in the Gujarat Assembly Elections 2017; a month after the party was formed. Chhotu Vasava is a well known tribal leader in the region.
Ahmed Patel has been Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary since 2001 to 2017. Thereafter, he was appointed as the Congress party treasurer. Being a close confidant of Sonia Gandhi, Patel occupies a position of a lot of power within the party. Bharuch has always been his bastion and continuing with the dynastic succession ideology of the party, wanted the bastion to go to his son, Faisal Patel. It had in fact been decided that Faisal Patel will be given a ticket to contest from Bharuch in Lok Sabha.
Even though Bharuch is not a tribal constituency, it has always elected a tribal MP. BJP representative Mansukh Vasava has been elected as the MP from Bharuch since the past 4 election rounds.
Congress has lost all its alliances. In a bid to bargain for the “suitable seats”, they have driven most of their alliance partners away including the ones in West Bengal, UP, and in Delhi. This time, the Congress party realised that they have no hold in Gujarat and out of fear of losing the alliance, chose to comply with all the demands of a party as insignificant as BTP. Unfortunately, Patel and his son had to bear the brunt and it was announced that Faisal Patel will not be contesting from Bharuch.
Contrary to the rumours in the media & beyond, I will not be contesting the upcoming #Loksabha2019 elections from #Bharuch constituency while my father, Mr. @ahmedpatel is a MP from Rajya Sabha. @INCIndia @INCGujarat
— Faisal Patel (@mfaisalpatel) March 23, 2019
Congress in a bid to tap into BTP’s minute popularity decided to let Chhotu Vasava contest from Bharuch and was keen that he should contest on Congress’ party symbol. This was not acceptable to the tribal leader. Moreover, he has also announced his decision to field BTP candidates from six other seats in Gujarat. The Congress says it would not be feasible to let go of all the tribal seats to accommodate the BTP. Congress is contemplating on how to respond to these demands for Chhotu Vasava states that the response will be a test of Congress’ “gratitude” to him.
He stated, “There is no question of my candidature on any other party symbol except the BTP. It should not matter to them (Congress) so long as we are in an honest alliance. Even when I was with JD(U), I voted for Congress’ Ahmed bhai Patel (during the Rajya Sabha polls). It is time for them to repay the debt they owe me.”
This bid at alliance is being viewed as the grand old party’s darkest hour. Ahmed Patel has been one of the most powerful people in the party. Often known as the “voice of Sonia Gandhi”, he has always wielded too much influence in the party. Now, the grand congress in order to ally with a newbie party, barely 2 years old has to comply with their demands and sideline the person behind the “voice of Sonia Gandhi”. What a fall it has been for a man who used to strategize and control everything during the 10 years of UPA.
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