Former Congress MLA Tejashree Patel, who is currently with the BJP, on Monday told the Gujarat High Court that days before the 2017 Rajya Sabha election was to be held, then state Congress chief Bharatsinh Solanki and senior party leader Shaktisinh Gohil had “threatened (party MLAs) that if they don’t vote for Ahmed Patel they will be suspended from the party and would not be given tickets for any election”.
Deposing before the High Court, which is hearing a petition filed by BJP leader Balwantsinh Rajput challenging Ahmed Patel’s election to the Rajya Sabha, Tejashree said that the “threat” was given to all the Congress MLAs in the specially-convened meeting on July 25, 2017 in the run-up to the Rajya Sabha polls for three seats. Patel appeared as a witness for Rajput.
When questioned by Ahmed Patel’s lawyer on why she resigned from the party on July 27, 2017, a day after accompanying Patel as one of her proposers for filing nominations, Tejashree said, “I resigned because of organisational issues and differences with Bharatsinh Solanki. I had told this to Ahmed Patel.”
When questioned on who exactly issued the alleged threat, Patel named Shaktisinh Gohil, adding that the party had issued a whip which was “threatening in nature”. “We are politicians. How can one threaten us against contesting polls? We were told that if we don’t vote for Ahmed Patel, we will be suspended, and would not be allowed to contest election for the next six years,” she said.
Tejashree also replied in negative when asked whether she was “afraid” that two leaders — OBC leader and now a Congress MLA, Alpesh Thakor, and Patidar quota leader Hardik Patel were posing threat to her political ambition in her constituency, Viramgam. “I was never afraid of it. I get tickets based on my performance,” she said.
Patel had joined Congress in 2000 and won from Viramgam in 2012 by defeating the BJP. In July 2017, she had resigned from the party and later joined BJP. She contested the 2017 Assembly polls on a BJP ticket, but lost.
Last week, Mahendrasinh Vaghela, son of former chief minister Shankersinh Vaghela, had deposed before the court as a witness in the trial of election petition. Vaghela was in the Congress before he joined the BJP last year, and within months he quit the ruling party. He had also deposed that in meetings Congress MLAs were threatened.
Rajput had lost to Ahmed Patel following dramatic turn of events on August 8, 2017. The other two winners for the three seats from the state were BJP chief Amit Shah and Union Minister Smriti Irani. Rajput had moved the High Court challenging the result alleging that Ahmed Patel had bribed and threatened the MLAs.