Vaghela ‘Un­friends’ Cong

The Gu­jarat Congress chief may be look­ing for a way back home to the BJP

India Today - - STATES - By Uday Mahurkar

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


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

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