Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel is all set to be re-nominated as the party’s candidate for the upcoming Rajya Sabha election from Gujarat, party sources said. Top Congress sources said the re-nomination of Patel, political secretary to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, was approved by party vice-president Rahul Gandhi at a meeting with senior leaders of the state unit here yesterday. Those who were present at the meeting, including Congress general secretary in-charge of Gujarat Ashok Gehlot and state party chief Bharatsinh Solanki, endorsed Patel’s name for the seat falling vacant on August 18.
If re-elected, the 67-year-old leader would become a member of the Upper House of Parliament for the fifth time. The Congress leadership is confident of his victory, despite the recent exit of Gujarat strongman Shankarsinh Vaghela from the party. Sources said the leaders discussed the consequences of Vaghela’s exit on the party’s prospects in the Gujarat Rajya Sabha biennial poll and the upcoming assembly elections. There was wide consensus in the meeting that the Congress would manage to retain its lone Rajya Sabha seat from the state, where the terms of three members — BJP’s Smriti Irani and Dilipbhai Pandya, and Patel — is expiring on August 18.
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Congress has 57 MLAs in the 162-seat Gujarat assembly and needs 47 for its candidate to win the RS seat. Congress also has the support of two NCP and one JD(U) legislator in Gujarat and feels it can retain the seat, even if Vaghela walks away with some MLAs. The last date for filing of nominations for 10 Rajya Sabha vacancies from Gujarat, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh is July 28. The process of nominations began on July 21 for the August 8 election. Patel’s first term in the Rajya Sabha began in 1993.