Ahead of the August 8 Rajya Sabha polls in Gujarat, the top brass of the ruling BJP in the state tonight held a meeting to discuss the names of the probable candidates. The opposition Congress, reeling under the impact of resignation of its senior leader Shankersinh Vaghela, has called its own meeting today to chalk out its strategy for the polls. Of the total 11 Rajya Sabha members from the state, the term of three of them – Smriti Irani and Dilipbhai Pandya (both BJP) and Congress’ Ahmed Patel – is coming to an end on August 18.
While the Congress has indicated it would re-nominate Patel, the state BJP is expected to send the names of probable candidates to its central Parliamentary Board, which will make the final announcement later, said party office-bearers. BJP’s state Parliamentary Board tonight held a meeting in Gandhinagar in the presence of Gujarat unit president Jitubhai Vaghani and Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, said a party release. The meeting was convened to discuss the names of probable nominees, it said. “The meeting was held at the chief minister’s bungalow in the presence of several key BJP leaders,” said Gujarat BJP spokesperson Bharat Pandya.
“As per party procedure, the board here engaged in discussion before finalising the names of probable candidates. If needed, the board may meet again before sending the names to the central Parliamentary Board, which would then announce the final nominees,” said a party leader. A meeting of Congress MLAs has been called tomorrow to discuss the future course of action for the August 8 polls to the Upper House of Parliament, said Gujarat Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi. The Congress has 57 MLAs in the 182-seat Gujarat Assembly. It needs the support of 47 of them to get its candidate through. The main opposition party also has the support of two NCP legislators and one of JD(U). However, cross-voting by its MLAs in favour of NDA’s presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind in the July 17 election has left the party worried.
The meeting is taking place at a time when the party is going through a major turmoil after the exit of Vaghela last week. The 77-year-old veteran politician has quit the post of Leader of Opposition, but he remains an MLA. The former chief minister has assured the Congress leadership he will resign from the assembly membership only after the Rajya Sabha polls are over.
Though at least nine of its MLAs cross-voted in the presidential polls, the party leadership claimed there are no chances of that happening in the RS elections. Any such “indiscipline” by MLAs in the Rajya Sabha polls would invite disqualification for six years, the party officials said. Parties generally issue whip to their members during a Rajya Sabha poll and those defying it could be debarred from contesting any elections for six years.