Ahmedabad, July 25 : The Congress on Tuesday said Shankersinh Vaghela resigned from the party as it did not meet his demand to project him as chief ministerial candidate in the coming 2017 assembly elections and that he resigned under pressure from the CBI and the ED.
Congress General Secretary in charge of Gujarat affairs, Ashok Gehlot, said: “This (Vaghela’s demand) was not acceptable to the party at any cost.”
Vaghela had on July 21 — his 77th birthday — announced his decision to quit the Congress, alleging that there was a conspiracy to get him out and that the party was not willing to do homework for the assembly elections though the situation was ideal to wrest power from the Bharatiya Janata Party after two decades.
Flanked by state Congress President Bharatsinh Solanki, Gehlot told reporters that Vaghela was under pressure to cause harm to the Congress due to threats of the Central Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement Directorate raids in connection with charges of selling prime land of National Textile Corporation in Mumbai for a song when he was the Union Textiles Minister in the first Manmohan Singh government in 2004.
Emerging from the party’s state Executive Committee meeting, Gehlot indicated the party was also likely to review its earlier decision of fielding all sitting 57 legislators in the assembly polls, leaving some Vaghela supporters out.
The top priority of the Congress is to ensure that Ahmed Patel, Political Secretary to Congress President Sonia Gandhi, scrapes through in the August 8 Rajya Sabha elections.
The Congress candidate needs 46 first preference votes, which Patel would have normally got given that the party has 57 legislators.
However, the party has pushed the panic button with 11 of the 57 MLAs cross-voting for National Democratic Allaince’s Ram Nath Kovind in the July 17 presidential poll and the exit of Vaghela.
The rebel leader resigned as Leader of Opposition but said he would put in his papers as an MLA after the Rajya Sabha elections.
Ahmed Patel, who is seeking a fifth term in a row in the upper house, is expected to file his nomination from Gujarat on Wednesday and has already been officially supported by the lone Janata Dal-United lawmaker and two of the Nationalist Congress Party in the state.
Meanwhile, tribal leader Mohansinh Rathwa from central Gujarat has been unanimously elected Leader of Opposition in place of Vaghela.