Individual prestige & egos turn RS election into a national slugfest

ROHIT CHANDAVARKAR 
Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Rajya Sabha is supposed to be the house of the elders and the wise. Assembly elections and municipal elections in this country may see some influence of muscle and money power being used by contestants, which is an avoidable but inevitable reality. But similar tactics being used for a Rajya Sabha election only indicates overall downward spiral of the ethics and moral elements associated with democracy in this country.

I f you watched national news television on Tuesday evening, you will perhaps think that the country is going through general elections! By evening on Tuesday, the who’s who of Modi cabinet was seen at the Election Commission office to demand the cancellation of Congress MLA Garasia’s vote so that the Rajya Sabha election polling could be tilted in their favour. Such BJP heavy weights entering the EC office to demand some decision from the commission only exhibits how the BJP is super eager to score in the Rajya Sabha polls in Gujarat.

The Rajya Sabha seats to be elected from Gujarat was fought between top political strategists from Congress and the BJP. Congress made it a prestige issue because party president Sonia Gandhi’s political advisor Ahmed Patel had to win the RS seat. The contest became interesting because Nationalist Congress Party made it clear that it will not be voting for the Congress candidate and some of their members may vote for BJP!

All the drama unfolded in Ahmedabad and New Delhi simultaneously as the contest for Ahmed Patel came to a virtually a life and death situation with just one or two votes making all the difference.

A few observations about this entire drama would put things in perspective. Firstly, this has become a high-stakes elections for Congress and the BJP only because of the heavy weight leaders being involved in the process. Both parties have given preference to prestige of individual leaders of their respective parties; secondly, the Congress has brought itself down to this level only because of their wrong strategy and approach towards states like Gujarat and thirdly, the alleged use of money and other means to influence the MLAs indicates that even Rajya Sabha seats will now see this level of horse trading in the future.     

The Congress led by Sonia Gandhi depended heavily on strategists such as Ahmed Patel who never won elections in their home state in the past 25 years. Congress’ policy of suppressing mass leaders and encouraging drawing room discussion expert leaders such as Ahmed Patel has brought the party to this level. But the BJP has also gone to the extreme by trying to influence the MLAs of Congress by hook or crook.

Rajya Sabha is supposed to be the house of the elders and the wise. Assembly elections and municipal elections in this country may see some influence of muscle and money power being used by contestants, which is an avoidable but inevitable reality. But similar tactics being used for a Rajya Sabha election only indicates overall downward spiral of the ethics and moral elements associated with democracy in this country. All parties involved in the election must introspect on how this is going to affect the health of India’s democracy in the future.

Timeline
May 22: Election Commission reschedules Rajya Sabha polls in Goa, Gujarat, West Bengal ‘indefinitely’. 
July 14: The Election Commission announced that elections to 10 Rajya Sabha seats in Gujarat, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh will be held on August 8, 2017. 
July 21: Shankersinh Vaghela quits Congress, but does not resign as a legislator. 
July 27: Three Congress MLAs Tejashreeben Patel, Balwantsinh Rajput and Prahlad Patel resign in Gujarat, Reducing Party’s Assembly Numbers to 54 
July 28: Three more Congress MLAs Mansingh Chouhan, Chhanabhai Chaudhary and Ramsinh Parmar give their resignations to Assembly Speaker. 
July 29: Fearing poaching by BJP, Congress flies 44 Gujarat MLAs to Bengaluru resort. 
August 2: I-T dept raids Karnataka minister hosting Gujarat Cong MLAs in resort 
August 2: Gujarat Congress moves SC against EC’s decision to introduce NOTA in Rajya Sabha polls. 
August 3: Supreme Court Refuses to Stay use of NOTA in Gujarat Rajya Sabha Polls 
August 7: Ahead of RS polls, 44 Congress MLAs return to Gujarat, taken to Anand resort 
August 8: Rajya Sabha polls held. 

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