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Amid ouster speculation, Gujarat Congress chief Bharat Solanki defers his US visit

The development comes amid speculation that Solanki (65) might be replaced by a young leader with an eye on the 2019 general elections.

Reported by: PTI, Ahmedabad [ Published on: March 21, 2018 22:13 IST ]
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Days after Gujarat Congress chief Bharatsinh Solanki denied reports that he has offered to step down from his post, the leader today said that he has postponed his visit to the USA citing "inclement weather in Newark". 

The development comes amid speculation that Solanki (65) might be replaced by a young leader with an eye on the 2019 general elections. 

In a tweet last night, the Gujarat Congress chief said that he was going to the US for two weeks. "Will be away for a while as I will be going to USA social visit for 2 weeks," he had tweeted. 

But this morning, the leader posted a fresh tweet saying, "Due to heavy snowfall at Newark & around area -Flight has been canceled, So I have decided to postpone my visit to USA (sic)". 

According to the sources in the Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC), Solanki had offered to resign when he met Rahul Gandhi in Delhi on March 19. 

Though the leader dismissed reports that he had offered to quit after being denied a Rajya Sabha berth, multiple sources the PTI spoke to today have said that he was on his way out. 

"Search is on for a new state unit president who will lead the party (in Gujarat) in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls," sources said, adding that the new state unit chief would be a young leader though many state leaders are keen to occupy the post. 

Sources said though Solanki denied in public that he has resigned, "it is one hundred per cent true that he has offered to resign". 

If sources are to be believed, cross-voting by some Congress MLAs in last year's Rajya Sabha election, in which Ahmed Patel was the official nominee, might be one of the prominent factors that might have gone against Solanki. 

"Other things that might have gone against him include his insistence for a ticket to contest the 2017 (Assembly) polls and his demand for a Rajya Sabha berth. Solanki is also seen protecting his loyalists who had worked against the party's official candidates in the state polls," sources said. 

Solanki was unavailable for a comment. 

If Solanki is indeed replaced with a next generation leader, it will be in tune with Congress president Rahul Gandhi's plan to give opportunity to young leaders, about which he had spoken during the recently held Congress plenary. 

According to the sources, OBC leader and MLA Alpesh Thakor is in the reckoning for the job. 

Two days ago, the GPCC chief scotched rumours that he had resigned from his post over not being given a ticket for the Rajya Sabha. Solanki had also denied he was unhappy with the Congress and said the party had chosen right candidates for the polls. 

"I am a soldier of the party and will do whatever is told to me," he had said. 

"The party has given me and my family so much. I am a committed soldier of the party. I have told Rahul Gandhi that I will do whatever work the party assigns me," he said. 

Last week, Union ministers Purshottam Rupala and Mansukh Mandavia (of the BJP), and Congress leaders Naran Rathwa and Amee Yajnik were elected unopposed to the Rajya Sabha from Gujarat. A total of four seats were up for grabs from the state. 

Solanki became president of the Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC) in December 2015. He had served as the Union Minister of State for Drinking Water and Sanitation (Independent Charge) in the UPA-II government. 

After winning Lok Sabha elections twice in 2004 and 2009, he lost the Anand seat in 2014 to Dilipbhai Patel of the BJP. He was denied ticket to contest the 2017 Assembly polls in Gujarat.

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