It was not just a political fight but a personal battle of wits between BJP president Amit Shah and the fading Congress party stalwart Ahmed Patel. But Ahmed Patel, the quiet unassuming man from Gujarat who managed to keep his records spotless clean while washing The Family’s Dirty Linens won the Rajya Sabha Elections. He somehow escaped being outmaneuvered by Amit Shah’s planning genius. But turns out the episode is far from over.
In a major jolt for the Congress, the Gujarat High Court out-rightly rejected Ahmed Patel’s plea to dismiss the petition challenging his controversial election to the Rajya Sabha. Ahmed Patel represented by lawyer P S Champaneri and senior party leader, advocate Kapil Sibal pleaded for dismissal of the petition on a minor technicality. He sought dismissal of the petition filed by BJP leader, Balwantsinh Rajput, on the ground that the petitioner has failed to serve an attested copy of the petition on the respondents as required by law. However, it was correctly argued by Balwantsinh Rajput’s lawyer Nirupam Nanavati that this was merely a technical error which is curable in nature. The defect in the petition not being that serious, the petition cannot be dismissed at the threshold level. The Court was satisfied with the arguments put up by the petitioner. Justice Bela Trivedi who is currently hearing the petition in connection with Ahmed Patel’s election, therefore rejected the plea on the face of it and admitted the petition filed by Balwantsinh Rajput.
There are serious allegations in the petition which if proved in the course of the petition will have considerable implications on Ahmed Patel’s membership in the Rajya Sabha as well as the fate of the Congress. The contents of the petition have challenged the invalidation of votes cast by two MLAs of the Congress, who had voted for Rajput, by the Election Commission. The Election Commission had rejected the votes cast by two Congress MLAs, Raghavjee Patel and Bholabhai Gohel, on the ground that they had shown their ballot papers to the BJP’s polling agent. After the questionable invalidation of votes by the Election Commission, the Congress secured a surprise last minute victory and Ahmed Patel got elected to the Rajya Sabha.
However, the petition has brought to light several glaring defects in Ahmed Patel’s election. Balwantsinh Rajput’s petition has challenged the rejection of the votes by the Election Commission as improper. He has also contended that had these votes been counted, Ahmed Patel would have been defeated. This argument is not without legal basis. In fact, Section 100 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 makes it amply clear, among other things, that if the High Court is of the opinion that the result of the election has been materially affected by the improper rejection of any vote, then it is a ground for declaration of the impugned election as void. The petition has also challenged election of Ahmed Patel on the ground of exercising undue influence upon the voters (Congress MLAs in Gujarat who voted for the Rajya Sabha elections) and bribing them. It has accused Ahmed Patel of indulging in corrupt practices by keeping 44 Congress MLAs in captivity in a Bengaluru resort and spending lavishly on them.
Everyone knows how important Ahmed Patel is to the Congress. He is not only a senior leader of the depleted party but also close to the Gandhis who are virtually the royal family within the Congress. This is the reason why the Congress had indulged in low-level politics and had spent all its energies in making sure that Ahmed Patel emerges victorious in the crucial Rajya Sabha elections.
The fact that the petition against his election has been admitted by the Gujarat High Court is bound to create chaos within the Congress. A victory or defeat for Ahmed Patel is going to have a direct bearing on the poor image that Gandhis, especially Rahul Gandhi, has created for himself. The petition stands on a strong footing and the Congress might be having uneasy days ahead even as the Court proceeds towards a verdict in the crucial case.
Amit Shah must be watching the developments with rapt attention. And things continue like this, he will probably have the last laugh.