Congress leader Ahmed Patel has rubbished as "baseless" the charge that he had any connection with a suspected terrorist who used to work at a hospital where he had been a trustee, and appealed to the leadership to not politicize matters of national security in poll-bound Gujarat.
Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani last night demanded that Patel step down as Rajya Sabha MP. Though Patel had resigned as a trustee of the Sardar Patel Hospital in Ankleshwar town of Bharuch district in 2014, Rupani said he was still at the helm of the hospital's affairs and therefore owed an explanation as to how suspected ISIS terrorist Kasim Stimberwala earlier worked as a laboratory technician there.
"Patel must clarify how such a person got a job in his hospital and why he resigned just days ahead of his arrest."
"Imagine what would have happened if these two terrorists were not arrested... Patel, Rahul Gandhi and the Congress must come clean on the issue. We also want Patel to resign as Rajya Sabha MP. It has now been revealed that Kasim had resigned just two days before he was arrested. This raises several questions. Patel must clarify how such a person got a job in his hospital and why he resigned just days ahead of his arrest," Rupani said at the BJP headquarters in Koba in Gandhinagar.
President Pranab Mukherjee was invited to inaugurate the premises in 2016, Rupani said, at a time when Stimberwala was still an employee.
Jayesh N Patel, a trustee of the hospital, told the Indian Express that "Ahmed Patel or any of his family members are connected with the hospital and the trust in any away".
The paper quoted a hospital statement as saying that "The suspect resigned on October 4, 2017, voluntarily and was relieved from duty on October 24".
Union minister Prakash Javadekar said Congress "owes an explanation as to how a terrorist had been working there for so long".
Patel tweeted: "My party and I appreciate the ATS' effort to nab the two terrorists. I demand strict and speedy action against them. The allegations put forward by the BJP are completely baseless."
The two IS suspects "were planning attacks on a Jewish religious place", Javadekar said.
The other suspect the ATS picked up is Ubed Ahmed Mirza, a practicing lawyer at the Surat district court.
Congress in-charge of communications, Randeep Surjewala, came to the defence of Patel, saying neither he nor any of his family members was a trustee of the Bharuch Hospital where the alleged terrorist was working.
"A frustrated BJP facing imminent defeat in Gujarat is resorting to levelling reckless and baseless allegations against Ahmed Patel," he said.
Sardar Vallabhai Patel Hospital is a charitable hospital and it has between 150-200 employees including doctors and technicians, he said.
"A frustrated BJP facing imminent defeat in Gujarat is resorting to levelling reckless and baseless allegations against Ahmed Patel."
"The BJP is being shown the door by 6.5 crore Gujaratis and a defeated BJP is clutching onto the polarising straws of blatant lies to reset the agenda. It will never succeed in its sinister conspiracies," the Congress leader said.
He said the BJP should stop preaching about fighting terrorism to anyone.
"The BJP's track record on terrorism is quite dismal. Will Amit Shah and Vijay Rupani answer as to who permitted dreaded terrorist Dawood Ibrahim's wife to visit Mumbai and leave unscathed with the entire government sleeping over the same," he asked.
"The truth is that Vijay Rupani and his government fired upon and killed farmers in Dahod in Gujarat. The BJP is trying to divert attention," he alleged.
The two suspected IS operatives had allegedly planned to carry out a "lone wolf" attack on a Jewish synagogue in Khadia area of the city.
(With IANS and PTI inputs)