Rajya Sabha poll drama turns spotlight on Ahmed Patel

Congressman has called the shots while remaining in the shadows

August 08, 2017 10:33 pm | Updated August 09, 2017 08:07 am IST - New Delhi

Congress candidate Ahmed Patel flashes the victory sign at Swarnim Sankul 2, the venue for voting in the Rajya Sabha polls, in Gandhinagar on August 8, 2017.

Congress candidate Ahmed Patel flashes the victory sign at Swarnim Sankul 2, the venue for voting in the Rajya Sabha polls, in Gandhinagar on August 8, 2017.

For most of his political life, Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary of 16 years, Ahmed Patel, has preferred to wield power behind the scenes.

But his attempt to retain his berth for a fifth term in the Rajya Sabha has pushed him centrestage, with BJP president Amit Shah making the election a prestige battle.

Prestige issue

The fact that a battery of union ministers went to the Election Commission to counter the Congress’s demand to invalidate the votes of two MLAs because they had shown them to an unauthorised person, underscores the importance of this election to the BJP.

And this determination to defeat Mr. Patel has transformed a man who has always preferred to work in the shadows into, as a senior Congress leader put it, “a national hero”, if he wins, or “a martyr, who fell to the machinations of the BJP and the Modi-Amit Shah machine”, if he loses.

If Mr Patel fails to retain his seat, thanks to BJP pressure on the ECI, it will be a huge psychological blow to the Congress, especially in Gujarat where Assembly polls are due later this year.

On the other hand, senior Congress leaders stress that Ms. Gandhi’s dependence on her political secretary, and her firm faith in his abilities, will ensure that he continues to retain his position in the party, even if his defeat brings some joy not just to the BJP but to Mr. Patel’s detractors in the Congress.

In recent weeks, the Rahul Gandhi camp has accused Mr. Patel of using his influence over Ms. Gandhi to block the former’s efforts to place his own people in the Congress structure.

Win will act as booster

If Mr. Patel wins his seat, the party’s belief in his powers to take on the might of Mr. Shah and the BJP party machine will be endorsed. It will strengthen him within the Congress, making him indispensable not just to Ms. Gandhi, but to the party. It will be a big morale booster for the Congress nationally, especially as it will follow electoral defeats. and the way the BJP managed to form governments in Goa and Manipur.


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