Ahmedabad: Gujarat Congress in-charge Ashok Gehlot on Thursday tore into former party leader Shankersinh Vaghela and accused him of "betraying" the party at the behest of the ruling BJP.
Gehlot said it was a mistake to keep Vaghela in the Congress for two decades.
Addressing Youth Congress workers at a function in Ahmedabad, Gehlot lashed out at Vaghela for "orchestrating" cross-voting during the recent Rajya Sabha polls and triggering defection of MLAs. He said Vaghela was acting as per the instructions of the ruling BJP.
"We now realise that it was a big mistake to keep Vaghela in the party for the last 20 years. We not only gave him respect, but also made him Union minister, president of the state unit and also the leader of opposition in the Gujarat Assembly," he said.
Gehlot said Vaghela had assured that he will work as a "disciplined soldier" of the Congress when he joined the party 20 years ago.
"When he joined Congress 20 years ago, he gave an assurance that he will never leave the party. But, he didn't keep his word and betrayed the party," the former Rajasthan chief minister said.
Gehlot claimed Vaghela had deliberately laid "impractical conditions" ahead of the 8 August Rajya Sabha polls in Gujarat "so as to take forward the agenda of the BJP".
Vaghela had said that he would extend his support to Congress candidate Ahmed Patel only if Gehlot takes back the "allegations" that Vaghela had quit the party because the BJP was blackmailing him in the name of CBI.
"Vaghela knew that Congress will never accept his demands. He was only rehearsing the script given to him by the BJP. Though he had promised to vote Patel, he reneged on his own words. It reflected his double standards," Gehlot said.
Commenting on the exodus of 14 MLAs of Congress in poll-bound Gujarat, including Vaghela, Gehlot said he was more than happy to get rid of such "corrupt and opportunist" people.
"It will not make any difference to the party. Since Vaghela is not in Congress now, he will try to harm our party during the Assembly polls. But, I am confident that Congress will win power this time," he said.
Speaking on the occasion, state unit Congress president Bharatsinh Solanki announced that party vice-president Rahul Gandhi may visit a function of elected representatives of local bodies on September 4.
Vaghela (77), a Kshatriya strongman, had last month announced his decision to quit the Congress. The former RSS volunteer had also clarified that he was not going back to the BJP.
He had headed the Rashtriya Janata Party (RJP) government in Gujarat in 1996, before merging his party with the Congress.
The veteran politician, who enjoys a considerable support in North Gujarat, was expelled from the Congress along with seven other MLAs for voting against Ahmed Patel in the RS polls.
Vaghela, who recently resigned as MLA, has not yet opened his cards on his next political move.
Updated Date: Aug 24, 2017 22:29 PM