- To win a seat in Gujarat, any candidate needs at least 34 MLAs
- The BJP can easily win two of the four Rajya Sabha seats
- The Congress has accused the BJP of trying to split its ranks
The Congress has been walloped in Gujarat by the resignation of six of its MLAs ahead of the June 19 Rajya Sabha polls and may now find it extremely difficult to win more than one of the state's four seats due for voting.
The BJP, with 103 members in the 182-member state assembly, can easily win two of the four Rajya Sabha seats. The ruling party has fielded a third candidate, Narhari Amin, setting up a close contest for a seat the Congress would have earlier counted as a shoo-in.
To win a Rajya Sabha seat, any candidate in Gujarat needs at least 34 MLAs.
The odds are against the Congress winning a second seat after two MLAs, Jitu Chaudhary and Akshay Patel, resigned today. Four MLAs had resigned in March. The opposition party now has 66 members and can comfortably win only one Rajya Sabha seat.
The Congress has to decide who will be its first preference candidate because that person is most likely to win.
Of the four Rajya Sabha seats in Gujarat due for polls, the BJP has three and the Congress, one. Besides Narhari Amin, the BJP has fielded Abhay Bhardwaj and Ramilaben Bara. The Congress has named Shaktisinh Gohil and Bharatsinh Solanki for the polls.
Gujarat Assembly Speaker Rajendra Trivedi said Akshay Patel and Jitu Chaudhary met him on Wednesday evening. "I have accepted their resignations. They now cease to be the legislators," the Speaker told reporters.
The Congress has accused the BJP of trying to split its ranks using money.
"Gujarat has been one of the worst mismanaged states in dealing with the coronavirus crisis and instead of focusing on health infrastructure and helping people , they are focusing on buying MLAs," said senior Congress leader Rajiv Satav to NDTV.
Narhari Amin, a former Congress leader, denied the allegations and said more were likely to quit the Congress simply because they were upset.
"I believe that some more Congress MLAs would also resign in near future. They are leaving Congress because they are unhappy with the party leadership," Mr Amin said.
To complicate matters for the Congress, the party is not sure it can bank on its ally Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), which has a lone MLA, Kandhal Jadeja. The NCP has replaced its Gujarat chief Shankarsinh Vaghela amid reports of a difference of opinion over the party to support in the Rajya Sabha election.
"NCP has issued a whip for its MLA to vote for the Congress. It is a different matter whether he will vote as directed," senior NCP leader Praful Patel told NDTV.
Mr Patel denied reports that Mr Vaghela had been removed because he had objected to supporting the BJP. "It's completely untrue that Vaghela wanted to vote for the Congress. In fact, during Ahmed Patel's time, it was Vaghela who got the NCP MLA to vote against Ahmed Patel," said the former union minister.
The Congress faced a similar crisis in 2017, when Ahmed Patel, a top Sonia Gandhi aide, fought hard to retain his Rajya Sabha seat after 13 MLAs resigned. Mr Patel won that election by a whisker. He needed 44 votes to win and he got 44 in a win aided by the Election Commission holding the votes of two Congress rebels invalid for showing their ballot papers to the BJP's election agent.
The Rajya Sabha elections were to be held on March 26 but were postponed because of the coronavirus crisis and the nationwide lockdown.