Congress confident of Ahmed's victory, says Smriti may lose

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The Gujarat Congress on Wednesday expressed confidence that its Rajya Sabha candidate and party chief Sonia Gandhi's political adviser Ahmed Patel will win the August 8 election. On a day of high drama in the wake of Income Tax raids against its Karnataka minister D.K. Shivakumar in Bengaluru where Gujarat Congress MLAs are put up in a hotel resort, the Congress said that BJP's Smriti Irani could lose her Rajya Sabha seat. Gujarat party President Bharatsinh Solanki told reporters: "The victory of Ahmedbhai is assured. Their party chief (Amit Shah) could win easily but they will now have to choose between Smriti Irani and their third candidate Balwantsinh Rajput. "Chief Minister Vijay Rupani has also said that if Balwantsinh loses election, then it does not make a difference. Perhaps he is trying to give consolation to his partymen but it is likely that Smriti Irani may lose the elections." Solanki launched a scathing attack on the ruling BJP on charges of misusing government machinery to pressurize the legislators before the elections to the Upper House. "The BJP has no ethics and they are biggest hypocrites. They have no respect for democracy and they trying to win the third seat to the Rajya Sabha," Solanki said. He expressed surprise that the "None of The Above" (NOTA) option was being introduced whereas it was the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government that had decided against its use in Rajya Sabha polls.  The Congress leader pointed out that it was the Vajpayee government which decided in favour of open voting on the basis of party whip and a six-year disqualification for a legislator going against the whip. Solanki criticised the BJP and the media for defaming the Congress legislatorsa for putting up in Bengaluru when floods were lashing North Gujarat. "Only three (of the 44 legislators) are from flood affected areas. These MLAs are not enjoying the luxuries of a hotel resort in Bengaluru. They are not," he said.  Solanki alleged that since the BJP was "using government machinery and pressure tactics by Superintendents of Police, district officials and IT raids, the legislators decided to move to the safety of a Congress-ruled state. "They should have been provided security so that they were not forced to leave their homes and constituency," he said.