When Sasikala Natarajan “kidnapped” supporting MLAs and kept them hostage in a resort during the power struggle in Tamil Nadu following chief minister J. Jayalalitha’s demise, the then leader of opposition of Gujarat, Shankersinh Vaghela must have smirked and said “yeh pehle ho chuka hai” in his head.
In 1995, for the first time the BJP got majority and formed the government in Gujarat. Narendra Modi, who was then the National General Secretary of the BJP, favoured Keshubhai Patel over Shankersinh Vaghela, who had been an active RSS member and was even jailed during the Emergency.
Vaghela felt sidelined and within months he lead a coup and toppled his own party’s government. He flew out 45 supporting BJP MLAs to Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh (where Digvijaya Singh of the Congress was the Chief Minister) and a middle ground was reached where neither Patel nor Vaghela would be the chief minister.
Suresh Mehta swore in as the chief minister in October, 1995 and his government lasted for 11 months before President’s Rule was brought in. In the election which followed, Vaghela fought through his own political outfit “Rashtriya Janta Party” and he swore in as the twelfth chief minister of Gujarat through outside support of Congress. Eventually, his political outfit merged into Congress.
However, in the next elections held in 1998, the BJP won again and since then, Gujarat has been a BJP stronghold. Of these twenty years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has served as Gujarat’s Chief Minister for almost twelve years.
Now the upcoming 2017 Legislative Assembly elections in Gujarat are interesting for more reasons than one.
The BJP is facing twenty years’ anti incumbency. In these twenty years, Gujarat has seen an earthquake, riots and alleged fake encounters. But then, Gujarat has also witnessed rise in foreign investment, construction of Narmada canal spider network and better power and water connectivity.
But the most interesting thing is that just months before the Assembly elections, 3 Rajya Sabha seats from Gujarat are up for reelection. Of these, one seat is of Congress Rajya Sabha MP Ahmed Patel. Ahmed Patel is a 7 time MP from Gujarat (3 times Lok Sabha and 4 times Rajya Sabha) and also the political adviser to Congress President Sonia Gandhi.
Congress is a sinking ship. As many as 6 MLAs have resigned from the party and joined the BJP in Gujarat. Gujarat Congress has 51 MLAs (original 57, of which 6 resigned) and Patel needs 45 votes to retain his seat.
Last Friday, when Gujarat was inundated with floods, worst in a decade, Gujarat Congress flew 44 of the remaining MLAs to a resort in Bangalore to keep them from crossing over to the BJP. Banaskantha’s Dhanera was one of the worst affected areas in the floods. Their Congress MLA, Joitabhai Patel, was one of the 44 MLAs vacationing in Bangalore. When the citizens needed their elected leader in time of natural calamity, their leaders were not reachable because their phones were switched off.
To save ONE Rajya Sabha seat, Gujarat Congress gambled the entire state of Gujarat which goes to election later this year.
But as an observer of Indian politics for a few years now, I, honestly am not surprised.
Congress has historically gambled the entire nation to ensure the Family stays in power. Gujarat is no big deal.