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We have learnt lessons, time to put house in order: Ahmed Patel



Ahmedabad, Aug 14 : Congress veteran Ahmed Patel has admitted he learnt “bitter lessons” in his Rajya Sabha election when a battery of legislators openly tried to sabotage his winning prospects but asserted it ended up helping the party separate the wheat from the chaff.

In a candid interview to IANS where he spoke about issues afflicting the party, Patel, political secretary to Congress President Sonia Gandhi, said: “We will need to be careful in future, keep a close watch and look into individual grievances of party leaders and MLAs.”

Asked if this meant rebel leader Shankersinh Vaghela was correct in his claims that the problems and aspirations of MLAs were ignored, he said: “Well, not exactly. But we will look into the details and the genuineness of the grievances for sure. But that is no justification for stabbing the party in the back like this.”

“It was the toughest electoral battle of my career. I have fought five Lok Sabha elections and four Rajya Sabha, but this was the toughest,” the 67-year-old Patel admitted.

“We learnt bitter lessons but we have emerged stronger. This entire episode (of sabotage) has automatically led to purging of people whom we could not trust. We know who is ours and who is not, and who was never,” said the Congress leader, who won his fifth term after two votes against him by rebel MLAs got invalidated.

Good riddance of bad rubbish? “No, no, no, don’t use such words; not bad rubbish, but those who were not the party’s well-wishers have left,” said Patel, who belongs to south Gujarat’s Bharuch district.

Six Congress MLAs resigned in the run-up to the Rajya Sabha election on August 8, and eight others, including rebel leader Vaghela, openly cross-voted against the party’s official nominee Patel in an election which turned into a battleground with four candidates in the fray for three seats.

Two of them, BJP President Amit Shah and Patel, were the most powerful leaders in their respective parties and the Bharatiya Janata Party was bent upon seeing Patel out — also to snub Sonia Gandhi.

Within 24 hours of Patel’s victory, reportedly with the support of the lone Janata Dal-United legislator Chhotubhai Vasava, the eight Congress rebels were sacked, and the party also issued sack letters to the six who had resigned because they had done so after a whip to vote for Patel.

Patel added: “The first and the most important outcome of this election is that there is new spirit and sense of determination, which had dissipated and given way to inertia.”

“The mood has changed now. Sometimes it is the will to win alone that overrides and takes care of several issues.”

What was in this victory that has sent a current of energy through the party, something that did not happen even after the Congress lost all 26 Lok Sabha seats in 2014?

“When you pull life out of the jaws of death, you don’t want it to happen again. All our people, the entire party was made to feel completely helpless by the enemies very much within us. This was not the case in 2014, though it was a humiliating defeat,” pointed out Patel, whom Vaghela had promised to vote for, only to take a U-turn at the eleventh hour.

Asked if he was now going to take active charge of the Gujarat Congress and lead from the front, given that he has set the party rank and file a target of 125 seats (in a House of 182), he said an emphatic “No.”

“I will be a facilitator, I will keep a much closer watch and do my best possible to meet this target. I am not for Chief Ministership, if you are suggesting even something remotely like that.”

So who is going to channelise this new energy in the party since every leader in the Congress seems to be a Chief Ministerial candidate, the key party strategist laughs, but admits: “This is a big challenge for us, the tendency to count the eggs even before they are hatched.”

So, what do you do with this? “We will sort it out. See, sometimes small distractions and minor tussles blur the big picture, the bottomline. This episode has come as a blessing in disguise. There is a realisation that a victory is now a necessity for survival.”

“Once the bottomline becomes your goal, other things start falling in place.”

Gujarat is expected to go to the polls in December this year.

With Vaghela gone, does the Congress have a Chief Ministerial candidate with state-level stature?

“I won’t like to go into Vaghela’s claims, but I would say your ability to fetch victory on a tough ground has to be demonstrated through adequate evidence,” Patel said, tacitly referring to Vaghela’s erstwhile Rashtriya Janata Party’s ability to win only four seats.

“We have not thought of a Chief Ministerial candidate, we will do so when the need arises. Right now, the immediate priority is put our house in order,” he said.


Unhappy Naresh Agarwal joins BJP, says SP prefered Bollywood actress over me as RS candidate



Naresh Agarwal
Naresh Agarwal joins BJP (Photo-ANI)

The Samajwadi Party leader, Naresh Agarwal on Monday joined BJP in the presence of Railway Minister, Piyush Goyal and BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra.

While joining BJP, Naresh Agarwal who is currently the Rajya Sabha member of Samajwadi Party said, “I am joining the BJP as I think that until you are in National Party, you cannot do anything for the society. I am also impressed by PM Modi, BJP president Amit Shah and UP CM Yogi. I still respect Mulayam Singh Yadav and Ram Gopal Yadav, but the current scenario in SP where it is doing a coalition with Congress and sometimes BSP is very sad.”

The leader joined BJP after the Samajwadi party nominated actor and politician Jaya Bachchan for the upcoming Rajya Sabha election in April. The party had to choose between Naresh Agarwal and Jaya Bachchan as they don’t have enough legislators in the assembly to support their candidate.

Talking about Samajwadi Party’s Rajya Sabha candidate, Jaya Bachchan he said, “My comparison was drawn with those working in films… I was rejected for those who dance in films, work in films. I found it not proper. Nobody found it proper.”

Agarwal became tv channels and newspaper’s headline for making controversial statements. In July 2017, he courted controversy in Rajya Sabha by associating Hindu Gods with alcohol, while speaking on the issue of mob violence related with cow protection. However, after his statement, he was made to apologise by BJP.


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India, Pakistan should decide to think of peace: Farooq Abdullah on ceasefire violations



Farooq Abdullah
National Conference party leader, Farooq Abdullah (File Photo)

Kashmir:  National Conference party leader Farooq Abdullah on Tuesday spoke about the situation on the India- Pakistan border in Kashmir. 

The leader speaking on the continous ceasefire violation said,”this will continue to happen.”

The leader urging both the countries to find a diplomatic solution said,”firing will continue to happen on both sides unless the two nations decide to think of peace.”

“The sooner they think about it, the sooner it will stop,” he added.

However this is not the first time when Abdullah has asked for diplomatic solutions, earlier the leader stated that war is not the solution of the Kashmir issue.


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Kabul seeks closure of Taliban’s Qatar office



Taliban office in Qatar
Taliban office in Qatar (Photo- The Newyork Times)

Doha, Feb 24: Kabul has started discussions with the Qatari government to close the Taliban office in Doha as it has had “no positive consequence in terms of facilitating the peace talks with the group in Afghanistan”, a senior government official has said.

“There is no need to keep the office open”, said Mohammad Hanif Atmar, National Security Advisor to President Ashraf Ghani, in an interview with Middle East newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat earlier this week.

“The aim behind opening (Taliban’s) Qatar office was to start official peace negotiations with the terror group from the address, but so far no official negotiation from the office has been started with government. Even a single step has not been taken forward in the peace process through this office,” Qadir Shah, a spokesman for Atmar’s office said.

“It had no benefit for us even after seven years… It is better to close it,” Atmar said.

He also said that Kabul has so far witnessed no sign of “sincere” cooperation from Islamabad in counter-terrorism efforts.

The Taliban had earlier reached out to the US with an offer for talks and urged people to pressurize Washington to bring an end to the invasion of Afghanistan.

The Taliban had said that they preferred to resolve the conflict that began in 2001 through peaceful dialogue and warned that the use of force alone would complicate the problem in Afghanistan.

The group had called on the “American people and the peace-loving Congressmen” to pressurize US leadership to end the occupation of the Asian country, a precondition that Taliban has always maintained to begin any negotiation.


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