After Congress veteran Ahmed Patel’s hard-fought victory in the Rajya Sabha elections, the party on Wednesday cracked the whip against 14 rebel MLAs, including former Chief Minister Shankersinh Vaghela, expelling them for six years for anti-party activities.

Ahmed Patel, also political secretary of Congress President Sonia Gandhi, meanwhile called on the party unit to gear up for a target of winning 125 seats out of 182 in the December assembly elections.

“The party has expelled all eight rebel MLAs, including Shankersinh Vaghela, who cross-voted against Ahmed bhai, defying the party whip,” Gujarat Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi informed media. 

“We have also initiated similar action against six other legislators who resigned earlier after the party had issued a whip to all MLAs to vote for the official nominee in the Rajya Sabha elections,” he said, adding that the action against them is on technical grounds.

“We will now initiate legal proceedings against all of them to ensure that they are not able to fight Assembly polls for the next six years,” Doshi said, adding that defying the party whip invites disqualification from contesting any election.

Besides Vaghela, the expelled legislators include his son Mahendrasinh and loyalists Raghavji Patel, Bholabhai Gohil, Anand Chaudhary, C.K. Raulji and Dharmendrasinh Jadeja, who had voted against official party candidate. Another MLA from Sanand, Karamshi Patel, who was one of the 44 legislators flown off to Bengaluru to prevent “further poaching” from BJP, was also expelled for cross-voting in defiance of the party’s whip.

Meanwhile, all the 43 legislators who voted for Ahmed Patel, held a meeting with the senior Congress leader and vowed to fight the forthcoming polls with more vigour.

Patel exhorted all the legislators to visit Tirupati Balaji temple to seek blessings for the victory and take a vow to bag 125 seats in the forthcoming Assembly elections.

The Congress veteran had asserted after winning his Rajya Sabha seat that the victory had pepped up the party’s ranks and “we will fight the assembly elections with all aggression and ensure their (BJP‘s) defeat 100 per cent.”

A spirited state President Bharatsinh Solanki said: “The victory in Rajya Sabha elections will go a big way to boost our morale. Ahmedbhai will play a crucial role (in the assembly polls).”