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Congress stalwart Ahmed Patel, who retained his Rajya Sabha seat in Gujarat in a humdinger of a contest, on Wednesday said his victory has come as a boost to the party workers and set an aim of 125 seats in the assembly polls due later this year. Patel, the high-profile political secretary to party president Sonia Gandhi, admitted that the election was the "toughest" one he had fought in his life. He beat BJP nominee and Congress defector Balwantinh Rajput in the bitterly-fought contest marked by defection of MLAs, political manoeuvring and a see-sawing number game. Congress workers on Wednesday celebrated Patel's victory by bursting crackers and distributing sweets at many places. "This was the toughest election that I have fought in my life. I thank my party leaders and my MLAs," Patel told a gathering of Congress MLAs at the Gandhinagar Circuit House. The meeting was convened by Patel to thank the MLAs who stood by him against "all kind of offers from the BJP", party leaders said. "The morale of our party workers has skyrocketed after this win.
With this victory, we will have to set a target of winning more than 125 seats in the coming elections. Our next target is to win the 2017 elections," Patel said. The Congress has been out of power in Gujarat for more than two decades. Winning his fifth term to the Upper House of Parliament, Patel secured 44 votes, after the Election Commission invalidated the votes cast by two Congress MLAs for violating the rules. Patel refused to answer queries regarding former Congress heavyweight Shankarsinh Vaghela. Vaghela had quit the Congress last month, followed by resignation of six MLAs. All senior leaders of the Congress who attended the meeting hailed Patel's victory. Meanwhile, state unit Congress president Bharatsinh Solanki said the party will take action against those MLAs who cross voted in the election.