Ahmedabad, Dec. 2: Rebel Congress leader Narhari Amin and his supporters today held a show of strength and declared they would decide within two days whether to quit the party, amid reports that an offer from Narendra Modi to join the BJP was under consideration.
However, the camp, which includes former ministers and ex-MPs, appeared to leave some room for negotiation saying they might stay on if they receive "honourable positions" and their grievances are addressed.
"A final decision is likely in two days," said Amin, a former deputy chief minister who revolted this weekend after being denied the candidature for the Gandhinagar Assembly seat.
At today's meeting, Amin supporters declared they would not campaign for any Congress candidate, which political observers interpreted as a veiled threat that they would work to defeat the party's official nominees.
"With today's gathering, we have shown the leadership that their decision and the criteria they worked out to exclude leaders like me and (former minister Naresh) Raval are wrong," Amin said. "Their mistake is going to cost the Congress heavily."
Amin's elder brother Ghanshyam Amin, himself a middle-ranking Congress leader, said Modi had asked Amin to join the BJP with all his supporters. "This option of joining the BJP is very much there," Ghanshyam said.
Congress leader and Amin supporter Dasrath Patel confirmed this, saying Amin, a senior leader from the Patel community, would be a prize catch for Modi.
The chief minister would love to showcase Amin in the absence of a tall Patel leader in the BJP since the exit of former chief minister Keshubhai Patel, Dasrath said.
Sources said Sonia Gandhi's political secretary, Ahmed Patel, had called up Amin last night and said he could contest the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. But, they added, Amin is "not convinced at all".
The snub to Amin has set off a spate of resignations in the party. Those who have quit their posts include Ahmedabad Congress president Pankaj Shah, 17 councillors, 40 ward presidents and over 100 city unit office-bearers.
Amin has also become a rallying point for other disgruntled Congress poll aspirants.
At the meeting, Amin supporters described the party leadership as a "chandaalchokadi", a derogatory term referring to a caucus of scheming people.
Speaker after speaker ripped into the candidate screening committee, headed by Union minister P.C. Joshi, for "selling tickets to undeserving people".
Former minister Raval, whose father and former MP Gangaram was close to late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, went a step ahead and named the "caucus".
"They are (state Congress president) Arjun Modhwadia, (legislature party leader) Shaktisinh Gohil, election campaign committee chairperson Shankersinh Vaghela and ticket screening committee chairperson P.C. Joshi," Raval said.
After the meeting, a group of angry workers shouted slogans against Ahmed Patel in a sign of resentment at the central leadership.
Amin supporters made fun of the screening committee's norms, such as the one ruling out those who lost two consecutive elections or those defeated by more than 15,000 votes in 2007.
"Then the Congress itself should not contest the election at all ' it has lost four consecutive Assembly elections," said Badruddin Shaikh, leader of the Opposition in the Ahmedabad civic body and a frustrated ticket aspirant.
"We shall form a committee to decide whether to stay in the Congress ' in case we receive some concrete commitment ' or join the BJP," a senior member of Amin's group said. "These are our only two options."