The 44th Vote
There is some confusion about the 44th vote that clinched Ahmed Patel’s win in the Rajya Sabha election. The Congress and the lone JDU MLA claim that it was the latter who voted against his party line, on account of his personal equation with the Congress leader. Congress leaders have also been claiming that both the NCP votes went to the BJP. This is interesting, because the NCP claims that it got one of its two MLAs to vote for the Congress. Then, who cast that clinching vote? In fact, so angry was the NCP that the Congress was not acknowledging it vote, that it boycotted the opposition meeting called by Sonia Gandhi on Friday. Praful Patel told Ghulam Nabi Azad that the NCP would attend the meeting only if the Congress acknowledged the NCP vote, but for reasons best known to itself, the Congress did not do so and instead claimed that the NCP did a no-show at the opposition meet as Sharad Pawar was unwell. The NCP is not amused at this doublespeak, which makes one wonder if the NCP will be the next party to leave the UPA.
The Patel Trap
It was rebel Congress MLA Shankarsinh Vaghela who put his finger on the pulse of the Congress turmoil over the Ahmed Patel election when after casting his vote against the Congress leader, he told the media that he did not want to waste his vote by voting for Patel as “there are some in the Congress who want to see his (Ahmed Patel) reputation tarnished”. He later added, after Patel won that “Inka hisaab Dilli waale karna chahte the (some in Delhi wanted to see Patel lose).” Vaghela’s hint, sources say, was towards the Rahul Gandhi camp, which is said to be against the old guard represented by Ahmed Patel. There is an unstated power struggle between the headquarter honchos and Team Rahul. The old guard is unwilling to let go of the power they once enjoyed and Rahul Gandhi is too brash to take them along. Therein lies the problem, for it is up to the team leader to ensure continuity with change. But Rahul Gandhi is not sending that message, hence the insecurity and rivarly between the old guard and the wannabes. The feeling is that after this win, Patel and Co have only consolidated their hold over the party, and Rahul will find it harder to effect a change of guard. And, within the party, there are mixed reaction to this!
Why did Rahul Gandhi not attend the bhog ceremony and antim ardaas for Captain Amarinder Singh’s mother who passed away in the last fortnight? Even Sukhbir Badal, who is the Captain’s political bete noir, made it a point to attend, but the Congress heir apparent was missing at a point where his presence would have sent the right message to the one man who is winning elections for the Congress. However, Rahul Gandhi did make it a point to attend the funeral of Santosh Mohan Deb, a veteran Congressman whose daughter Sushmita is Rahul’s colleague in the Lok Sabha. But Rahul’s presence did little to excite Congress workers who complained that though he came to the funeral, he spent most of the time fiddling with his phone instead of interacting with party workers who had come there to get a moment with him. And when your presence is as impactful as your absence, you clearly have a problem on your hands. When will Rahul Gandhi realise this?
The Last Word
In the midst of all the uproar, claims and counter claims over the high profile Rajya Sabha vote last Tuesday (8 April), NCP leader Praful Patel’s tweet caused quite a stir. This was the time TV channels and politicians were trying to chase that elusive NCP vote. Did the second NCP MLA vote for the Congress or BJP? If you recall, one of the two MLAs had claimed he had been asked to vote for the BJP, while the NCP leaders in Delhi were saying their whip was in favour of the Congress. In the midst of this, NCP leader Praful Patel suddenly tweeted his Tuesday thoughts, which revealed nothing, but created quite a stir. For along with a photograph of himself sporting a mischevious twinkle, Praful Patel’s thoughts ran like this—there is life beyond your own, there is something you can influence, you just have to reach out to the people and touch their lives. But the speculation is still out as to whose life the NCP touched that day—the BJP or the Congress. Guess that’s what they call a political googly.