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Ticket snub sparks revolt in Gujarat

Ahmedabad, Dec. 1: The Congress facade of unity in Gujarat lies shattered days ahead of the Assembly elections, with senior leader Narhari Amin revolting after being denied the Gandhinagar ticket that he had staked claim to.

The party’s Ahmedabad unit president, Pankaj Shah, 17 councillors, 40 ward presidents and more than 100 city office-bearers have resigned protesting the “injustice meted out to their leader”.

Amin, a former deputy chief minister and former president of the Gujarat Cricket Association who was part of the core committee drawing up the strategy for the elections, refused to be placated today when his friend and senior Congress leader Rajiv Shukla called on him.

“I am not a child. I have been in active politics for more than 35 years now. They cannot fool me,” Amin told The Telegraph, saying he had turned down an offer of a Rajya Sabha seat conveyed by a senior Congress leader in Delhi. The leader, Amin said, wanted him to meet Sonia Gandhi but “I refused”.

Although his elder brother Ghanshyam said “he has met Modi and he may even join the BJP”, Amin himself did not reveal his cards. “I will take a call only after consulting my supporters who are meeting tomorrow afternoon,” he said. But Amin, 58, said he is “fed up” with the Congress and has made up his mind not to campaign for the party candidate.

“This is going to have a considerable impact on the morale of party workers and on voters’ minds as the city unit of the Congress has virtually become defunct. With his clout, money and muscle power, Amin is capable of damaging Congress prospects,” Youth Congress leader Illiyas Qureshi said.

The Congress announced its second list of candidates on Thursday. Gandhinagar South, the seat Amin wanted, will go to the polls on December 17 in the second phase.

The party has denied tickets to all those who have lost two consecutive elections and whose margin of defeat has exceeded 15,000 votes, making an exception only for Surat East nominee Qadir Pirzada who had lost thrice but has still made the cut. Pirzada is seen as a party loyalist and is close to Ahmed Patel, the political secretary to Sonia Gandhi, who hails from Gujarat.

Amin had lost the 2002 and 2007 elections from Sabarmati, a large chunk of which has become part of Gandhinagar South after delimitation. A Patel leader who became part of the Congress when the Janata Dal merged with it in the mid-nineties, Amin is not known to get along with Ahmed Patel.

He described the criteria for granting tickets as “flawed” and “manipulated”, arguing that he had lost the last two elections because of the Hindutva wave. He has won from the Sabarmati seat in the past.

As long back as last year, the Gujarat Congress president Arjun Modhwadia had announced Amin’s candidature from the Gandhinagar seat while speaking at an event.

Amin was actively involved in drafting the Congress vision document for 2012, which announced 12 attractive promises including the “home for homeless (Ghar nu Ghar)” scheme that is seen as a hit. He addressed 12-odd news conferences announcing the schemes.

His rebellion will hurt the Congress because people will note that the man who made all the promises is himself out in the cold, sources said. “They will not take the party seriously,” said Amin, moments after Shukla left.

Amin’s elder brother said Modi had offered him the president ship of the Gujarat Cricket Association (GCA) if he joined the BJP.