Ahmedabad: Hours after Congress leader Ahmed Patel’s laboured win in the Rajya Sabha election from Gujarat, the party expelled eight of its members of its legislative assembly (MLAs) in the state for not heeding its whip.

“We celebrated Patel’s Rajya Sabha renomination as the victory of good over evil. We will take action against the eight members of the legislative assembly (MLAs) including Shankarsinh Vaghela who cross-voted in favour of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and will ensure that they cannot participate in elections for the next six years," Manish Doshi, Congress spokesperson for Gujarat, said. The party expelled the eight.

The Congress would also “take action against the 6 MLAs who quit our party last month and joined the BJP," Doshi added.

While Doshi sounded confident about the party’s prospects in the assembly elections due later this year, Patel’s narrow win, the defections, and the expulsions, will no doubt weaken the party. The lack of an agenda and a known face to lead the election campaign has made the road ahead even more difficult for the Congress.

This was the first time in the last two decades that a Rajya Sabha election in Gujarat, normally uncontested, was being held by way of voting. Two seats were uncontested and they duly elected BJP president Amit Shah and central minister Smriti Irani.

The third was a contest between Patel, who is Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary, and the BJP’s high-profile candidate Balwantsinh Rajput (a defector from the Congress).

“We won the election but growing differences within the party have become evident," said a senior Congress leader from Gujarat.

Meanwhile, although the BJP failed in its attempt to make Patel lose, senior leaders of the party claim that they have succeeded in their attempt to divide the opposition, something that would benefit their party in the upcoming polls.

BJP leaders say the party challenged Patel because the senior Congress leader is a representative of Sonia Gandhi and the BJP wanted to further embarrass a party in decline.

“The Rajya Sabha election was not just about defeating Ahmed Patel; he represents Sonia Gandhi.While the BJP could not defeat Ahmed Patel, the fact that Congress is a divided house is now in the open," said a senior BJP leader on condition of anonymity.

A political analyst said that while many people in the state are not happy with the current BJP government, the Congress “needs serious transformation" to present itself as an alternative. “Today Congress is seen as a party of leaders rather than workers which is BJP’s core strength," Vidyut Joshi said. And the Rajya Sabha election hasn’t helped, he added. “While Patel managed to win, the party has suffered a huge organizational loss."

Anuja and Gyan Varma in New Delhi contributed to this story.

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