Tamed, Vaghela smells two ‘conspiracies’ in Ahmed Patel’s victory

Virendra Pandit Gandhinagar | Updated on January 09, 2018 Published on August 10, 2017

Shankersinh Vaghela (file pic)

Crest-fallen after his carefully-crafted plans went awry and led to his ‘expulsion’ for six years from the Congress, he had quit on July 21 itself, ‘unattached’ leader Shankersinh Vaghela, on Thursday, smelt a pre-planned ‘conspiracy’ that ensured Ahmed Patel's win in the crucial Rajya Sabha seat in Gujarat.

At his first press conference here after the debacle, Bapu, appearing rattled by the sudden turn of events, claimed that Patel’s victory had been pre-planned. “They were ready with paper-work to challenge the voting and result a night before polling. The lawyers were ready in New Delhi, and they rushed to the Election Commission in time to secure invalidation of two votes. This was a conspiracy to win the election.”

He said when Congress MLA Raghavji Patel came to cast his vote, the Congress agent (Shaktisinh Gohil) tried to snatch the ballot paper in an attempt to incite him. But Raghavji did not show the ballot to anybody else. Gohil also prompted Raghavji to show his ballot paper to others. Another voter, Bholabhai Gohil, did not even display his ballot paper to anybody. But the Election Commission invalidated both the votes. Only the Returning Officer can reject a vote, not the Commission. “This can be challenged in the Supreme Court.”

In fact, Vaghela smelt another ‘conspiracy’. According to him, some leaders in the party’s top leadership wanted to ensure Ahmed Patel’s defeat. “At the behest of those leaders, Ashok Gehlot (AICC General Secretary in-charge of Gujarat) remarked that I (Vaghela) was under the pressure of BJP, CBI and ED. Even when I challenged him to withdraw these remarks or I will not vote, Gehlot did not retract.”

Chastened, Vaghela said the Congress High Command was simply not concerned about the dissatisfied party MLAs’ complaints. “Then why did they suddenly take them hostage and pack them off to Bengaluru to enjoy 5-star luxuries. It was the Congress that indulged in horse-trading. Even a senior leader like Ahmed Patel had to depend on the support of non-Congress parties.”

Bapu reiterated that as many as 36 Congress MLAs, out of 57, had expressed dissatisfaction when they met at his residence in the presence of the then AICC General Secretary in-charge Gurudas Kamat a few months ago. “There was wide-spread disaffection among the MLAs as the party leadership did not care to listen to their views. I had been repeatedly warning the leadership about this and how this could impact the Rajya Sabha elections. I even told Rahul Gandhi that the Congress had turned into a system-failure party.”

He also questioned the “double standards” of the Congress leadership. “When it suits you, the vote of conscience is acceptable. Indira Gandhi’s call for vote of conscience, that led to the victory of V. V. Giri as the President of India, against the Congress’ own nominee, was acceptable. You did not act against the 11 Congress MLAs who recently cross-voted against the party supported Meira Kumar in the Presidential poll, as she had also given the call for a conscience vote. Then why act against those Congress MLAs who, similarly, cast their vote of conscience against Ahmed Patel? I also wanted to raise the voice of conscience.”

About Ahmed Patel, seen as his bête noire for years, Vaghela said the Political Secretary to Congress President Sonia Gandhi was a “sober” person with whom he would continue to have cordial relations. “His reputation was put on the line by some leaders.”

Bapu said he will resign from the Gujarat Vidhan Sabha next week and challenge the Election Commission’s invalidation of two votes, that led to Patel’s win, in the Supreme Court.

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Published on August 10, 2017
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