Inside politics

The Gujarat Rajya Sabha result is a setback for Amit Shah. Will it be a turning point?

Will Ahmed Patel’s win help revive the Congress in Gujarat? Or is it too little too late?

The outcome of the Rajya Sabha election in Gujarat marks quite a turnaround for Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah. The failure of various political stratagems used to defeat Congress candidate Ahmed Patel goes beyond being a mere blow to his reputation of coming up with winning electoral magic. It has also ensured that the beleaguered and battered Congress party has walked away with more than a face saver from what would otherwise have been a routine election.

That it came months before the extremely crucial Assembly election in Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is what heightened interest in Tuesday’s developments.

It was Shah who planned the BJP’s strategy for the Rajya Sabha election in Gujarat, converting it into a high-stakes personal battle. The target was Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary since 2001, once considered the third most important person in the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government.

“Shah has a personal grudge against me,” Patel was quoted to have said last month. The BJP president, senior journalist Rajdeep Sardesai wrote last month, was convinced that Patel had a key role to play in his being jailed in 2010 in the Sohrabuddin encounter case and wanted “to settle scores by ensuring that the man who he believes set the CBI on him” was denied a Rajya Sabha seat.

The battle was thus converted from being just a single Rajya Sabha seat to a high-stakes ones, aimed at striking a deep blow to the Congress president’s inner circle, in order to undermine its control and influence over the Congress party.

‘It was personal’

The events were set in motion towards the end of last month, ahead of the Rajya Sabha election when six loyalists of Congress dissident leader Shankarsinh Vaghela quit the party in quick succession. One of these six MLAs, Balwantsinh Rajput, was fielded by the BJP to take on Patel for the Rajya Sabha seat. Till then, the Gujarat Assembly was clearly positioned to elect one Congress and two BJP nominees to the Rajya Sabha. While the numbers were still so placed as to ensure victory for two BJP candidates and one Congress nominees, this defection seemed to finally have convinced the Congress that there was a credible threat to the rest of its MLAs being poached as the Shah-led BJP seemed serious about ensuring Patel’s defeat.

That is when it packed off its MLAs to a resort in Bengaluru and complained to the Election Commission. Its state leader Shaktisinh Gohil even alleged that the BJP had tried to buy off party MLAs. “The BJP is hitting below the belt. We are fighting to protect the democracy. These (Congress) MLAs chose to stand by the party even when they were offered Rs 15 crore,” Gohil told media persons on July 30.

On August 2, the income tax department raided the Bengaluru resort owned by Karnataka minister DK Shivakumar, where the Gujarat legislators had been housed. The government claimed the raids were part of an ongoing investigation against Shivakumar. But the Congress grabbed the opportunity to argue that the BJP was going to unprecedented levels to intimidate its legislators.

With all these high-profile raids and TV coverage, the stakes had been raised so high that Patel’s seat in Rajya Sabha had now become a prestige and personal battle between the political management skills of Shah and Patel. A blow to Patel would have been a mortal blow to the Congress party’s prospects in the upcoming Assembly elections, as it has been reeling under the impact of defections and loss of power in state after state.

BJP president Amit Shah with Union Textile Minister Smriti Irani in the voting room at the Secretariat where voting for Rajya Sabha was held, in Gandhinagar on Tuesday, August 8. Image: PTI
BJP president Amit Shah with Union Textile Minister Smriti Irani in the voting room at the Secretariat where voting for Rajya Sabha was held, in Gandhinagar on Tuesday, August 8. Image: PTI

Desperate attempts

Which is what accounted for the last minute hunkering down by the Congress, and scrambling for support from one Janata Dal (United) MLA. But despite all its efforts, two of the party’s own MLAs eventually voted not for Patel but for BJP’s Rajput.

Where things went wrong for them was that they were videographed showing their ballot papers to persons other than the authorised agent. That is what led to extraordinary scenes of a Rajya Sabha election counting being halted. It took many hours and repeated representations to the Election Commission in Delhi before the votes of the two cross-voting Congress MLAs were disqualified.

How crucial this decision was became clear when it emerged that without their disqualification, which reduced the total number of votes required to win by one vote, Patel would not have won in the first preferential vote round.

The victory of Patel, despite all the odds and overwhelming pressure is thus bound to at least act as a bit of a moral boost for the cadres left demoralised by the exodus of its MLAs in the run up to the Rajya Sabha election.

The poll outcome has also ended at once all the speculations that the damage caused to the Congress by the exit of senior party leader Shankarsinh Vaghela was decisive for its electoral fate, at least as far as the Gujarat Rajya Sabha polls were concerned. This may also go some way in restoring the fighting spirit among the Congress cadres in a state where the party has not been able to win Assembly elections for almost two decades.

Despite the bad blood with Shah, Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary has long been accused of having had some kind of tacit understanding with Modi ever since the latter became the chief minister of Gujarat. The palpable desperation shown by the BJP to ensure his defeat would perhaps help dissipate at least some of those clouds of suspicion

For Patel, therefore, the victory in the Rajya Sabha election marks a coup of sorts. His supporters hope that this will also prove to be a turning point in the fortunes of his beleaguered party, for which this was perhaps the only saving grace in months of ending up on the losing side in a contest with the saffron party.

For his critics and those hoping for a change in the very functioning of the grand old party, the old guard of the Congress has managed to live to fight another day.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

What’s the difference between ‘a’ washing machine and a ‘great’ washing machine?

The right machine can save water, power consumption, time, energy and your clothes from damage.

In 2010, Hans Rosling, a Swedish statistician, convinced a room full of people that the washing machine was the greatest invention of the industrial revolution. In the TED talk delivered by him, he illuminates how the washing machine freed women from doing hours of labour intensive laundry, giving them the time to read books and eventually join the labour force. Rosling’s argument rings true even today as it is difficult to deny the significance of the washing machine in our everyday lives.

For many households, buying a washing machine is a sizable investment. Oddly, buyers underestimate the importance of the decision-making process while buying one and don’t research the purchase as much as they would for a television or refrigerator. Most buyers limit their buying criteria to type, size and price of the washing machine.

Visible technological advancements can be seen all around us, making it fair to expect a lot more from household appliances, especially washing machines. Here are a few features to expect and look out for before investing in a washing machine:

Cover your basics

Do you wash your towels every day? How frequently do you do your laundry? Are you okay with a bit of manual intervention during the wash cycle? These questions will help filter the basic type of washing machine you need. The semi-automatics require manual intervention to move clothes from the washing tub to the drying tub and are priced lower than a fully-automatic. A fully-automatic comes in two types: front load and top load. Front loading machines use less water by rotating the inner drum and using gravity to move the clothes through water.

Size matters

The size or the capacity of the machine is directly proportional to the consumption of electricity. The right machine capacity depends on the daily requirement of the household. For instance, for couples or individuals, a 6kg capacity would be adequate whereas a family of four might need an 8 kg or bigger capacity for their laundry needs. This is an important factor to consider since the wrong decision can consume an unnecessary amount of electricity.

Machine intelligence that helps save time

In situations when time works against you and your laundry, features of a well-designed washing machine can come to rescue. There are programmes for urgent laundry needs that provide clean laundry in a super quick 15 to 30 minutes’ cycle; a time delay feature that can assist you to start the laundry at a desired time etc. Many of these features dispel the notion that longer wash cycles mean cleaner clothes. In fact, some washing machines come with pre-activated wash cycles that offer shortest wash cycles across all programmes without compromising on cleanliness.

The green quotient

Despite the conveniences washing machines offer, many of them also consume a substantial amount of electricity and water. By paying close attention to performance features, it’s possible to find washing machines that use less water and energy. For example, there are machines which can adjust the levels of water used based on the size of the load. The reduced water usage, in turn, helps reduce the usage of electricity. Further, machines that promise a silent, no-vibration wash don’t just reduce noise – they are also more efficient as they are designed to work with less friction, thus reducing the energy consumed.

Customisable washing modes

Crushed dresses, out-of-shape shirts and shrunken sweaters are stuff of laundry nightmares. Most of us would rather take out the time to hand wash our expensive items of clothing rather than trusting the washing machine. To get the dirt out of clothes, washing machines use speed to first agitate the clothes and spin the water out of them, a process that takes a toll on the fabric. Fortunately, advanced machines come equipped with washing modes that control speed and water temperature depending on the fabric. While jeans and towels can endure a high-speed tumble and spin action, delicate fabrics like silk need a gentler wash at low speeds. Some machines also have a monsoon mode. This is an India specific mode that gives clothes a hot rinse and spin to reduce drying time during monsoons. A super clean mode will use hot water to clean the clothes deeply.

Washing machines have come a long way, from a wooden drum powered by motor to high-tech machines that come equipped with automatic washing modes. Bosch washing machines include all the above-mentioned features and provide damage free laundry in an energy efficient way. With 32 different washing modes, Bosch washing machines can create custom wash cycles for different types of laundry, be it lightly soiled linens, or stained woollens. The ActiveWater feature in Bosch washing machines senses the laundry load and optimises the usage of water and electricity. Its EcoSilentDrive motor draws energy from a permanent magnet, thereby saving energy and giving a silent wash. The fear of expensive clothes being wringed to shapelessness in a washing machine is a common one. The video below explains how Bosch’s unique VarioDrumTM technology achieves damage free laundry.

Play

To start your search for the perfect washing machine, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Bosch and not by the Scroll editorial team.