GANDHINAGAR: Veteran leader Shankarsinh Vaghela, who recently quit the Congress, today said he was ready to support Ahmed Patel in the upcoming Rajya Sabha poll in Gujarat, if the party's state in-charge, Ashok Gehlot, took back his allegations against him.
He laid out the condition after claiming that Congress leader Patel approached him yesterday.
Notably, at least eight to 11 Congress MLAs, considered to be close to Vaghela, had cross-voted in the July 17 presidential poll in favour of NDA nominee Ram Nath Kovind.
"Ahmed Patel came to meet me last night. He said I should fight the Rajya Sabha election, which I refused. I assured him that I will vote for him in the election to the Rajya Sabha seat as I have not yet resigned as an MLA," said Vaghela.
The 77-year-old leader, however, claimed that Gehlot had made "irresponsible and personal allegations" against him, "without any shade of truth".
"He (Gehlot) had alleged that I quit the Congress as I was being blackmailed with the threat of CBI and ED (probes).
The CBI had, in the past, conducted raids at my house two or three times and I was also called for questioning at its Mumbai office," he said.
The former Gujarat chief minister claimed that the central probe agency could not find anything against him and the case was closed, adding that there was no Enforcement Directorate (ED) case against him as well.
"I had behaved with dignity while leaving the Congress and not levelled any personal allegation against anybody. This person (Gehlot), who has come from Rajasthan, is crossing all the limits. He should control his tongue," said Vaghela, who had quit the BJP to join the Congress around two decades ago.
Gehlot had yesterday said it seemed that Vaghela quit the Congress due to some pressure or blackmailing by the BJP.
"Gehlot should take back his words and publicly apologise or else, I will not support Patel in the Rajya Sabha poll,"
said the Kshatriya strongman, who wields a considerable influence in north Gujarat.
Patel, the political secretary of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, filed his nomination for re-election to the Upper House of Parliament from Gujarat today.
Patel submitted his papers to Assembly Secretary D M Patel in the presence of Gujarat Congress president Bharatsinh Solanki and Gehlot.
State Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Jayant Patel, one of the two MLAs of the party in Gujarat, and lone JD(U) MLA Chhotu Vasava were also present on the occasion.
The Rajya Sabha election is scheduled to be held in Gujarat on August 8.
Of the 11 Rajya Sabha members from the state, the term of three -- Smriti Irani and Dilipbhai Pandya (both BJP) and Patel (Congress) -- comes to an end on August 18.
The Congress has 57 MLAs in the 182-member Gujarat Assembly. It needs the support of 47 of them to get its candidate through. The main opposition party in the state also has the support of the two NCP MLAs and the lone JD(U) member.
The Congress is going through a turmoil after the sudden exit of Vaghela last week.
The veteran politician has quit as the Leader of Opposition in the Gujarat Assembly, but continues to be an MLA.