Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani on Friday night demanded resignation of Congress veteran Ahmed Patel from the Rajya Sabha alleging his possible links to a suspected terrorist arrested earlier in the week from his home district of Bharuch. Ahmed Patel rubbished the charge.
Rupani, who also sought Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi's clarification on the matter, was referring to Mohammed Qasim Stimberwala, one of the two alleged IS operatives arrested by the Gujarat Anti-Terrorist Squad from Surat on Wednesday.
Stimberwala had resigned recently as an eco-cardiogram technician in the Sardar Patel Hospital and Heart Institute in Ankleshwar, which Patel had helped grow into a modern facility.
Patel was one of the trustees during the hospital's formative years as a modern hospital and the only one in the entire Bharuch district with latest equipment and technology with facilities for heart surgery. He had resigned as a trustee in 2014 facilitating a new board of trustees to take over the facility.
The ATS, which picked up Stimberwala and Ubed Ahmed Mirza, claimed that they were planning to attack a Jewish synagogue in Khadia area of Ahmedabad and had even carried out reconnaissance of their target.
While Mirza was a practicing lawyer at the Surat district court, Stimberwala worked as a technician at the Ankleshwar hospital.
Rupani told reporters at the 9.30 p.m. press conference, which was delayed by more than three hours, that Stimberwala, caught by Intelligence Bureau and security agencies, was working at a Bharuch hospital where Patel had been a trustee and though resigning after UPA lost power, "still oversees in the working of the hospital".
The hospital's website has a list of eight trustees but Patel's name does not figure in the list.
Rupani claimed that the "arrest of a person working in a hospital where Ahmed Patel was a patron gave rise to several questions as how did a terrorist get a job in a hospital having close links with Ahmed Patel? Who got him the job? Whether he was aware of their activities?"
"The questions arise because the terrorist had resigned or was to quit just two days ahead of his arrest. This arouses suspicion. We are not levying any allegations but we just want Patel and Congress to clarify. If people are convinced, then it is ok," he said.
He went on to say that if the terrorists had not been caught, they would have carried out planned attacks on "Hindu religious heads and Jewish synagogue". The ATS however has mentioned only a Jewish synagogue during its investigations and no Hindu religious heads, as Rupani alleged.
Ahmed Patel, in a series of tweets, said the allegations by the BJP were completely baseless.
"My party and I appreciate the ATS's effort to nab the two terrorists. I demand strict and speedy action against them.
"We request that matters of national security should not be politicised keeping elections in mind," he said and also urged: "Let's not divide peace loving Gujaratis while fighting terrorism."
One of the trustees, Jayesh Patel, clarified that Stimberwala had joined the hospital six months ago, after having worked with Wockhardt and a couple of other hospitals.
"He had resigned on October 4 and relieved on October 24 according to his service conditions. He had said that he was leaving due to a better opportunity," he said.
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