Seven expelled Congress MLAs to join BJP, says Shankersinh Vaghela
Ahmedabad: The eight MLAs from Gujarat, who were expelled by the Congress party on Wednesday, are likely to join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). However, the fight for the Gujarat Rajya Sabha (RS) seat may not be over yet with the BJP set to challenge the Election Commission’s (EC) decision to declare votes of two rebel Congress MLAs as “invalid votes”.
Former chief minister Shankersinh Vaghela, while keeping everyone guessing about his next move after being expelled along with seven other MLAs, said that he has so far not decided to join any party, but the seven other MLAs will soon join the BJP.
The BJP, meanwhile, has started the process of initiating legal action against EC’s decision in the recent RS elections, deputy chief minister Nitin Patel said over phone.
The elections for three RS seats from Gujarat were held on Tuesday. Two seats were uncontested and were won by BJP president Amit Shah and central minister Smriti Irani.
The third was a contest between Ahmed Patel, who is Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary, and BJP’s high-profile candidate Balvantsinh Rajput (a defector from the Congress). Patel secured 44 votes to retain his RS seat, after the EC invalidated votes of two rebel Congress MLAs ahead of counting.
“The Election Commission’s decision of invalidating two votes will be challenged in Supreme Court by Rajput. It is the Returning Officer’s (RO) job to decide if a vote is valid or invalid and EC has no role to play in it. Also the Congress leader who was a polling agent in this election tried to snatch one candidate’s vote and even got up from his seat, thereby violating rules. All this will be challenged in the court of law,” said Vaghela, who is related to Rajput.
Vaghela claimed that some senior Congress leaders did not want Patel to win.
“My vote was reserved for Patel but then some of the leaders from Delhi started making personal and baseless allegations against me. I asked them to take their words back and since they did not do so I voted for BJP,” Vaghela told a media gathering on Thursday morning at his residence in Gandhinagar.
In June, Vaghela quit as leader of opposition of state assembly and said that he would leave the Congress in August after RS elections. Following his exit, six MLAs, including Rajput, quit the Congress and joined the BJP ahead of the RS elections.
Hitting out at the Congress, he said the party’s lack of organizational strength got exposed during RS elections and it was not something that happened overnight.
“There were 36 MLAs who had expressed their discontent before senior Congress leader Gurudas Kamat regarding the party’s state of affairs in Gujarat. The party, however, did not bother to look into their demands. Today 14 Congress MLAs are with the BJP. Many more might go, who knows? We’ll see what happens next,” he said.
Mahendrasinh Vaghela, son of Shankersinh Vaghela, who is also an MLA and cross-voted for the BJP, said that the seven MLAs had a meeting recently with BJP’s senior leaders, including chief minister Vijay Rupani and state party president Jitu Vaghani. He was speaking on the sidelines of the press conference.
“We have all decided to join the BJP,” he said.
Mint could not independently verify the claim with all the MLAs.
BJP spokesperson Harshad Patel said that the party welcomes all who believe in the party’s ideology.
“We thank the Congress MLAs who voted for us. The discontent of seven MLAs who got expelled from Congress has been out in the open for long now. Why didn’t the Congress take against them earlier? We welcome all leaders, including these seven MLAs, who want to join us and who believe in our party’ ideology,” said Jitu Vaghani, party president for Gujarat BJP.