NEW DELHI: Sharad Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) did not vote for Ahmed Patel in the dramatic Rajya Sabha election that he won by a whisker, sources close the senior Congress leader have said, confirming that it was the Janata Dal United's lone legislator in Gujarat, Chhotubhai Vasava, whose vote took him through. The revelation not just answers this week's most-asked question, but also threatens to blow another hole in opposition unity.
Amid defections and cross-voting in his party, Ahmed Patel won his Rajya Sabha seat on Wednesday winning exactly the 44 votes he needed. He got 43 from the Congress and one from someone who was not in his party.
There were at least three claimants - Chhotubhai Vasava said he had voted for old friend Ahmed Patel, as did rebel BJP leader Nalin Kotadiya. Then there was the NCP, the Congress' partner in an 18-member bloc of parties that is exploring opposition unity beyond Parliament and leading up to the 2019 national election, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi will seek a second term.
Sharad Pawar's party said it had ordered its two Gujarat legislators to vote for Ahmed Patel and was apologetic that one of them rebelled and voted for the BJP. The other, the party asserted had voted for Ahmed Patel, inferring that his vote won the Congress leader his fifth Rajya Sabha term.
"The NCP did not vote for Ahmed Patel," the Congress sources said today, alleging that the party is in talks with local heavyweight Shankarsinh Vaghela to float a front and take on both the BJP and the Congress in the Gujarat assembly elections at the end of the year.
Shankarsinh Vaghela is seen as the architect of an elaborate plan that plunged the Congress into disarray just ahead of the Rajya Sabha elections, in a bid to prevent Ahmed Patel's election to the upper house.
Soon after Mr Vaghela, angry at not being projected as presumptive chief minister, announced his exit from the Congress about two weeks ago, six legislators quit the party, with three joining the BJP. One of them was fielded by the BJP against Ahmed Patel in the Rajya Sabha election.