As Patel files Rajya Sabha nomination, Vaghela, Gehlot get into spat

Virendra Pandit Gandhinagar | Updated on January 11, 2018 Published on July 26, 2017

Ashok Gehlot, Congress in-charge, Gujarat

Shankersinh Vaghela, former Congress leader

Bapu threatens to quit as MLA before Upper House polls

Soon after filing his nomination papers for a fifth Rajya Sabha term, Congress veteran Ahmed Patel was on Wednesday caught in a cross-fire between “free bird” Shankersinh ‘Bapu’ Vaghela and the party’s Gujarat in-charge Ashok Gehlot, with the former threatening to resign even as an MLA before the August 8 election.

Hours after Patel disclosed on Wednesday that Vaghela had assured him of “support” for his candidature during a meeting on Tuesday, the estranged Congress leader threatened to quit as MLA even before the Rajya Sabha election on August 8, if Gehlot did not withdraw disparaging charges made against him.

Gehlot had claimed on Tuesday that Vaghela had quit the Congress only to save his skin from probes by the CBI and the ED into alleged scams when he was the Union Textile Minister in the UPA-1 regime.

Going hammer and tongs against Gehlot, Vaghela termed as character assassination the former Rajasthan Chief Minister’s claims, and “advised” him to refrain from leveling “unfounded charges”. “He should try to be CM of Gujarat, not Rajasthan,” Vaghela said, sarcastically.

The former Congressman, who quit the party last week, said the CBI and the ED had already “raided” his house and found nothing, except “nearly ₹500 or ₹1,000” in cash. He said his five-decade-long political life was “transparent”, while challenging the CBI to conduct searches again.

He also appealed to Gehlot not to “spoil my relations with Patel”. “I have resigned only from the Congress, not from politics.”

Two MLAs of the NCP and one of the JD(U) are expected to vote for Patel in the Rajya Sabha elections, where he needs the vote of at least 47 legislators to win. Last week, 11 rebel Congress MLAs, out of a total 57, had cross-voted in favour of NDA Presidential nominee Ram Nath Kovind, in place of UPA nominee Meira Kumar.

Interestingly, until recently, Vaghela and Patel were believed to be in opposite camps.

Vaghela,77, had quit the Congress and as his post as Leader of Opposition on July 21. He had also promised to resign as an MLA after the Rajya sabha poll.

Vaghela said he had actually declined an offer of Rajya Sabha seat, made by Patel, recently. “In fact, about a month-and-a-half ago, I suggested Patel’s name to Gehlot for renomination of Ahmed Patel to the Upper House.”

The former CM, however, parried a question if he would field his relative, Balwantsinh Rajpur, Congress MLA, as a Rajya Sabha candidate.

Asked about the current status of the 11 rebel MLAs, he said they are still in the Congress and could take own decisions. The Congress should probe why they cross-voted.

Vaghela also declared that he will not contest the MLAs’ election this time. Election to the Gujarat Assembly are due by December 2017.

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Published on July 26, 2017
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