Humility needs to be a permanent virtue especially for those in the corridors of power. And, finesse in strategising and implementing a backroom plan on the ground must be second big trait that needs to be assiduously cultivated by those in power politics. The art of war should never be confused with the fog of war, for realpolitik always triumphs in the end. A determined Ahmed Patel trumped Amit Shah in this war of nerves and egos.
On both these counts the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership that managed Rajya Sabha elections in Gujarat failed miserably leading to the victory of Congress president’s political secretary, Ahmed Patel in a nail biting finish, which went down to the wire. For all the ignominy faced by BJP leadership in the aftermath of Rajya Sabha polls, especially in prime minister Narendra Modi’s state, none can be blamed but themselves.
From the days of the Jan Sangh, Janata Party to BJP, the claimants of nationalist, right wing political formation, have thrashed decades old Congress politics of divide and rule. On more than one occasion, the opposition parties had herded their elected legislators or Parliamentarians to states run by them to ward off poaching by the wily Congress leaders. And till three years back, even top BJP politicos would agree that Congress was in a position of strength to split any party, political coalition or alliance at the time of its choice and place.
Even horse-trading was never new to Congress for clinging on to power at the Centre and in several states not just in Rajya Sabha elections. Let’s not forget how then prime minister PV Narasimha Rao secured majority in Lok Sabha with huge sums allegedly changing hands as part of a deal brokered with top Jharkhand leaders that came into the open within the precincts of Parliament. Aaya rams and gaya rams were two colloquial phrases that got into the Indian political mainstream narrative as part of Congress Machiavellian deals reportedly involving huge payoffs. All through the last three decades, non-Congress formations were at the receiving end that unfolded every now then under prime ministers and Congress presidents.
No one expected BJP to make the sailing smooth for Ahmed Patel. Nor does anyone deride its decision to field a third candidate given that it had at least 26 surplus votes after comfortably getting Party President Amit Shah and union minister Smriti Irani elected. Engineering a split in Congress, triggering defections, cross voting and then finally pressuring the returning officer to declare their third candidate winner is most unbecoming of a party that claims to have evolved in the matrix of a “distinctly different political culture.” One may argue that BJP was just giving it back in the same coin to the Congress, but that does not cut much ice.
There’s no reason why Election Commission of India should support this game plan of BJP to split the Congress just months ahead of the state assembly elections? Why should the Election Commission do the BJP bidding at a time when the ruling BJP was facing serious anti-incumbency after a near two-decade rule, inadequate and inefficient leadership and backlash from Patidar movement?
Violation of provisions under 39A and 39AA, Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 after two defected legislators disclosed their choice to ‘an unauthorised person, other than the party’s election agent’ was unacceptable. Their disqualification after a lot of deliberation beyond mid-night was the right call taken by Election Commission. There are precedents to such disqualification on June 11, 2016, in Haryana against a Congress MLA benefiting the BJP. Similar case was reported from Rajasthan way back in 2010.
While Election Commission should get a big pat on the back for preserving the sanctity of Rajya Sabha polls, BJP top leadership will have to introspect on their conduct, behaviour and political wheeling dealing that has hit its clean image. For the BJP, course correction in its political posturing as well as conduct is warranted big time.