- Shankersinh Vaghela appears to be hedging his bets on Ahmed Patel now
- Ahmed Patel seeks re-election to the Rajya Sabha tomorrow
- Elections will be held for three Rajya Sabha seats from Gujarat
"See, each and every voter is an owner of his own vote. So I have a good relation with Ahmed bhai Patel, I have discussed with Ahmed Patel, so it is our inner matter between me and Ahmed Patel therefore it is for me and Ahmed Patel to decide what to do and what not to do", he said cryptically from his residence in Gandhinagar.
Elections will be held for three Rajya Sabha seats from Gujarat tomorrow. The BJP has the numbers in the Gujarat assembly to win two of those with ease, and, till a few weeks ago, the re-election of Ahmed Patel, political advisor to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, from the third was a done deal.
But all that changed when Shankersinh Vaghela quit the Congress late last month. Soon after, supposedly at Mr Vaghela's behest, six Congress legislators resigned; three of them joined the BJP.
Suddenly, Ahmed Patel's election was in jeopardy. The Congress whisked away 43 legislators to Bangalore to prevent any more defections and lodged them at a luxury resort there. They returned to Gujarat very early this morning and drove in two buses to a resort in Anand, about 76 km from Ahmedabad.
Mr Vaghela was sidelined by the Congress which refused to to give in to his demand that he be projected for chief minister in assembly elections in Gujarat later this year. He said he continues to be in close touch with Ahmed Patel, for whom he says he has high regard.
"Since 1977 we are cordial friends, at that time I was in Janata party with the BJP and in those days Ahmed bhai was in the Congress. Even now, today also our relationship is very cordial. Today morning also we discussed on the telephone, tomorrow also he is going to call me, after 8th also we are going to see each other, so no problem, our relationship is without political party", he said.
Mr Vaghela denies he is in touch with Congress legislators considered loyal to him, who he might urge to vote against Mr Patel. "I already said that I disown political parties, be it BJP or Congress, so on moral grounds I should not be in touch with Cong MLAs and I am not," he claimed.
When asked if BJP President Amit Shah has called him, he said "I am sorry but I am not in touch with BJP".
And yet he hinted that he may also help Balwantsinh Rajput, the BJP candidate who has been fielded against Ahmed Patel. Mr Rajput, who is related to Mr Vaghela, is one of the Congress leaders who quit the party a few days ago to join the BJP hours later.
"He (Rajput) was earlier with the Congress, has had an equation with Ahmed Patel. He became my relative only later, so they (Mr Rajput's supporters) keep asking me that he is your relative, whether they should support him or not. I told them that it is now for the party to look out, for the party to decide, wherever I feel I can be of help I will pitch in and will try to help out," Mr Vaghela said.
Ahmed Patel needs the support of 45 legislators tomorrow to be re-elected to the upper house.