Vaghela ‘Unfriends’ Cong
The Gujarat Congress chief may be looking for a way back home to the BJP
He’s keeping them guessing. But the buzz about Shankersinh Vaghela, former chief minister and current leader of the Congress in the Gujarat assembly, is that he’s on his way out of the party. It is also being said that he’s looking to resettle his son, Mahendrasinh, currently a Congress MLA, in the BJP—Vaghela’s original political home.
The man, of course, is known to exercise his political options. In September 1995, Vaghela revolted against chief minister Keshubhai Patel and a year later split the Gujarat BJP to become CM with Congress support. Eventually joining the Congress, he held top posts, including that of Union textiles minister in UPA-I.
Vaghela’s latest machinations began this month with the ‘un-following’ of 30 senior Congress leaders, including party vice-president Rahul Gandhi, on Twitter. He also deleted a number of his own tweets that were critical of BJP leaders before mysteriously going AWOL.
Significantly, his curious conduct began after Ashok Gehlot, former Rajasthan CM
VAGHELA DELETED A NUMBER OF HIS ANTI-BJP TWEETS BEFORE GOING AWOL MYSTERIOUSLY
and Congress in-charge of Gujarat, attempted to broker peace between Vaghela and incumbent state president Bharatsinh Solanki (son of former CM Madhavsinh Solanki). At a party meeting on May 10, Gehlot reportedly worked on both leaders, asking them not to stoop to demanding that they be named as candidates for the post of CM in the upcoming December assembly polls.
Speculation over Vaghela’s “imminent exit” has also been fuelled by two other factors: BJP chief Amit Shah has made no bones about his willingness to poach leaders from rival parties, especially ahead of crucial elections, and with polls to three Rajya Sabha seats from Gujarat due in July, many believe that Vaghela could be part of the BJP’s strategy to wrest all three seats. Cross-voting by just 11 Congress MLAs could bring BJP the seat. Vaghela, sources say, enjoys the “unshakable loyalty” of at least eight legislators.
Analysts believe the BJP also wants Vaghela because of his popularity among OBC Kshatriyas, a constituency that has so far supported the Congress. Vaghela has himself rejected suggestions that he was looking to return to the BJP: “Kisne hawa chalaayi? Maine kaha? Amit Shah saamne milne aaye the?” the politician was quoted as saying a day before dropping out of sight. Congress insiders, however, talk about Vaghela’s strained relations with Solanki and Patel. But many party leaders also suggest that Vaghela is only indulging in pressure tactics to get his way.
Vaghela at a Congress party meeting on May 19