February 10, 2021 7:29:58 am
The Gujarat Congress found itself on a sticky wicket Tuesday as two of its candidates for the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) elections withdrew nominations “under pressure” while the candidature of as many others was cancelled on technical grounds, bring the number of its contestants down by four, one per ward. The Pradesh Mahila Congress also sacked its vice-president Sonal Patel after she went public accusing the Congress of “malpractice” in ticket distribution.
Pradesh Mahila Congress president Gayatri Vaghela issued a statement Tuesday removing Patel, who had sought a ticket from the India Colony ward in the AMC, after the latter issued a public statement alleging the party’s top brass had “demanded Rs 20 lakh in exchange for a party ticket from the ward”. Patel also claimed the Gujarat Congress “ignored” loyal workers like her and chose “younger women” for tickets this year.
In view of the statements issued by Patel, the Gujarat Pradesh Mahila Congress chief stripped her of all posts from the PMC with immediate effect.
“You have been a respectable party worker, holding important positions for the past many years. Yet, your conduct in the media recently, and the kind of controversial statements issued for our party’s leaders, are offensive and indecent due to which the image of the party has been affected. Due to your anti-party actions, you have been removed from all posts and membership of PMC with immediate effect,” a statement issued by Vaghela read.
Vaghela, however, told The Indian Express that Patel would be a part of Gujarat Congress. “Sonal is a very hardworking member of the Congress party. However, if for some reason the party has been unable to give her ticket, then she shouldn’t be issuing such kind of statements to hurt the party before the polls. If she was unhappy with the party’s decisions then we could have sat and discussed together. Being a VP of the PMC comes with responsibilities, so we have removed her from all positions in the women’s wing. She is still very much a part of Gujarat Congress,” Vaghela said.
Meanwhile, on the last day for withdrawing nominations, two women candidates — Chandrikaben Raval, party’s candidate from Naranpura ward, and Bhartiben Panchal, contesting from Vastral ward — withdrew from the contest.
BJP candidate Brindaben Surti is likely to be declared winner from the Naranpura ward, which is reserved for the OBCs, as no other candidates are in the fray. The Vastral ward is a part of the Vatva Assembly constituency, which is represented by the Minister of Home for State Pradipsinh Jadeja.
Both Panchal and Raval could not be contacted despite repeated attempts. Jagdish Panchal, the Nikol MLA and BJP’s city unit chief, also could not be reached.
Alleging pressure tactics, Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC) spokesperson Manish Doshi said, “It is a clear politics of pressure built by the BJP at these two wards. The connection of the BJP with these two wards is not hidden, thus proving the kind of pressure being built on our candidates.”
Doshi pointed out that the nomination form of the AAP (Aam Aadmi Party) candidate for Naranpura ward had got cancelled. “(So) the BJP built a pressure on the only candidate left — the Congress candidate who is a party worker’s wife — and became successful in this too. Similarly, for the Vastral ward, first pressure was built on Payal Patel (who was the Congress’s first choice for this seat), who stepped back, and then on Bhartiben Panchal”
In another setback for the party, nomination forms of its two candidates — Devalben Rathod from Sardarnagar and Dinesh Parmar from Thakkarbapanagar — were declared invalid on technical grounds, leaving the Congress with 188 candidates for 192 seats in the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation. Currently, Congress has 50 councillors, and the BJP 142.
After the withdrawals on Tuesday, a total of 771 candidates are in the fray on the 192 seats from 48 wards in Ahmedabad. These include 191 BJP, 188 INC, 54 Bahujan Samaj Party, and 155 AAP candidates. Another 86 independent candidates and 56 from others will be contesting the AMC elections on February 21.
Congress MLA Gyasuddin Shaikh from Dariapur, meanwhile, has submitted a complaint to the city police commissioner and State Election Commissioner Tuesday against the BJP, accusing the latter “to have put up several independent candidates across city wards” to make a dent in the Congress vote share.
In a video statement, Shaikh is heard saying: “Fearing defeat due to anti-incumbency, the BJP, in collusion with the police, has made several candidates contest as independent from majority wards. For instance, in my constituency Dariapur alone, there are 10 independent candidates contesting the election. With the police help, they took all these candidates to a farmhouse in Kheda and were allowed to return Tuesday night only after the deadline of withdrawing nominations got over.”