BJP resorting to ‘sinister conspiracy’ fearing defeat in Gujarat: Congress

NEW DELHI: The Congress hit back at the BJP on Saturday over “failed” Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani’s demand that its leader Ahmed Patel resign from the Rajya Sabha on charges that a suspected ISIS operative used to work at a hospital where the latter had been a trustee.

Launching a counter-attack, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said the BJP resorted to such “sinister conspiracy” due to its “trepidation” of defeat in Gujarat, which goes to Assembly polls in two phases in December this year.

Surjewala said that neither Patel nor his family members were trustees of the hospital, named after Sardar Patel, or had any role in its administration.

Surjewala stressed that the issues relating to national security are not “toyed with or politicised” and listed names of its leaders including former prime ministers Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi “who sacrificed their lives in the fight against terrorism”. Seeking to turn the tables on the BJP, he also asked the saffron party to come clear as to why the central and Maharashtra governments were clueless when underworld don Dawood Ibrahim’s wife visited Mumbai and flew back to Pakistan last year. Surjewala also asked whether it was true that former Maharashtra minister Eknath Khadse had to step down owing to his links with Dawood Ibrahim.

Two suspected ISIS operatives were arrested by the Gujarat Anti Terrorist Squad (ATS) three days ago. According to an FIR, one of the accused, Kasim Stimberwala, earlier worked as a technician at Sardar Patel Hospital in Ankleshwar town of Bharuch district.

At a press conference on Friday, the Gujarat chief minister 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.”

“Rupani has resorted to making such despicable statements and conspiracy for the BJP is afraid that 6.5 crore Gujaratis are going to reject it completely (in the Assembly polls). This shows the level to which the failed chief minister can stoop to out of fear of BJP’s defeat,” Surjewala said in a statement.

Referring to Ahmed Patel’s tweets on the episode, Surjewala said the senior leader himself has called for strict action by the Gujarat ATS in the case.

Surjewala said that the BJP should not teach it lessons on national security.

He alleged that the BJP-led governments and its leaders have proved to be weak in the fight against terrorism.

“Is it not true that the PDP-BJP government in Jammu and Kashmir offered compensation and job to the family of (Hizbul Mujahideen commander) Burhan Wani? Isn’t it true that the state government made Asiya Andrabi, involved in anti-India activities, ambassador of ‘Beti Bachao’ (save girl) campaign?” he asked.

Surjewala also referred to the 1999 Kandahar plane hijack episode to attack the BJP and asked “didn’t the previous NDA government release (extremist group Jaish-e-Mohammad’s chief) Maulana Masood Azhar and others in Afghanistan?”

Speaking to reporters earlier at the Congress headquarters, Congress leader Pawan Khera said Rupani had levelled allegations against Patel as the BJP was “seeking revenge of its defeat in Rajya Sabha election in Gujarat”. Patel had won the contest.