The BJP and Congress sparred with each other on Saturday, a day after Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani sought the resignation of Ahmed Patel for his alleged association with Sardar Patel Hospital and Heart Institute where a suspected IS agent was employed, even as sources said the Congress leader was considering filing a defamation suit against Rupani.
A source close to Patel said that the political secretary to Sonia Gandhi was in talks with his lawyers to seek advice on filing a criminal defamation case. Stepping up its attack on the Congress on Saturday, the BJP alleged “deep relations” between Patel and Sardar Patel hospital, and demanded an explanation from leaders of the opposition party. The Congress hit back, alleging that the BJP was indulging in “low-level tricks” because it was staring at defeat in the Gujarat Assembly elections.
Addressing the media at BJP headquarters, Union minister and senior BJP leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi demanded an explanation from Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi on the issue. “It is not a mere coincidence that Patel had deep relations with a hospital that also had links with terrorists,” he said.
“This is a serious issue, as a terrorist was arrested from a hospital which is being run by Ahmed Patel… Patel, Rahul Gandhi and the Congress must come clean on the issue. We also want Patel to resign as Rajya Sabha MP,” he said. The BJP holds national security above politics and is not trying to malign the Congress in view of the Gujarat polls, he added. Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani links ISIS case with Ahmed Patel, Congress says BJP is nervous
Two suspected IS operatives were arrested by the Gujarat Anti Terrorist Squad three days ago. According to the FIR, one of the accused, Kasim Stimberwala, earlier worked as a technician at Sardar Patel Hospital and Heart Institute in Ankleshwar. On Friday, CM Rupani alleged that the hospital was being “managed” by Patel.
Reacting to the allegations, Congress communication department head Randeep Surjewala said, “Fearing imminent defeat, the BJP has stooped to low-level tricks and conspiracy. To achieve success in Gujarat elections, the BJP is creating new drama every day… Playing with national security and terrorism is not acceptable.”
Accusing the BJP of diverting people’s attention, he said, “The truth is that the people of Gujarat are seeking answers from the BJP on issues of development and employment… and the BJP is unable to answer those questions… entire Gujarat is agitated and suffering because of mal-governance of the BJP government. The BJP will not be able to deflect the people’s anger by levelling cheap charges against Congress leaders.”
Neither Patel nor his family members were trustees of the hospital or had any role in its administration, Surjewala said. He alleged that BJP-led governments and its leaders had proved weak in the fight against terrorism. “Is it not true that the PDP-BJP government in Jammu and Kashmir offered compensation and jobs to the family of Burhan Wani? Isn’t it true that the state government made Asiya Andrabi, involved in anti-India activities, ambassador of Beti Bachao campaign?” he asked. Referring to the 1999 Kandahar plane hijack, he asked, “Didn’t the previous NDA government let off Maulana Masood Azhar and others in Afghanistan?”