‘No plans to join BJP, I’m apolitical for now’
Veteran Gujarat politician SHANKERSINH VAGHELA quit the Congress last week, ending an 18-year-old association with the party he had joined after exiting his parent organisation, the BJP, in 1996. With Gujarat slated to go to polls this year, speculation over Vaghela’s next move is rife. Deputy Editor Uday Mahurkar caught up with the leader to try and gauge what’s on his mind. Excerpts
Q. Why did you leave the Congress?
A. Some Congress leaders in Gujarat didn’t agree with my stand that the party should prepare for the assembly elections well in advance, as per the A.K. Antony committee’s recommendation that candidates should be shortlisted a year ahead of elections. Rahul Gandhi agreed with me that the Antony panel’s report should be implemented, but nothing happened. Perhaps these leaders had decided to deny me a role in the assembly polls. Had they not taken a stand against me and waited, I myself would have declared state Congress chief Bharatsinh Solanki the party’s chief ministerial candidate and settled for chairmanship of the campaign committee.
Q. Congress leaders say you shouldn’t have arm-twisted the party since it gave you so much despite your BJP background.
A. I, too, have given much to the Congress. I discharged the responsibilities given to me faithfully and tried to expand the par-
ty’s base. This despite some leaders plotting against me since the day I joined the Congress in 1998-1999. Even in the latest instance, they asked partymen and MLAs to skip my birthday party. Is this the way you treat senior leaders?
Q. Many Congress leaders claim the cross-voting by eight to 11 party MLAs in favour of Ram Nath Kovind was at your behest.
A. This is totally false. I have never engaged in anti-party activity. It is the state Congress leadership’s duty to find out who voted against Meira Kumar. I cannot be blamed for their management failures.
Q. Why did you write an explanatory letter to Sonia Gandhi after leaving the party?
A. I had to clarify my position to guard against any misinformation campaign by my detractors. Q. You also had complaints about the party manifesto not being considered while planning party programmes.
A. Yes, there should be synergy between the party’s programmes and its manifesto, which was missing in many cases. But my main complaint was that candidates were not being selected well ahead of elections.
Q. What’s your plan now? A. Wait and watch.
Q. Could you be joining the BJP? A. No, neither the BJP nor NCP. I will remain apolitical for now.
“PARTY MLAs WERE ASKED TO SKIP MY BIRTHDAY. IS THIS THE WAY TO TREAT SENIOR LEADERS?”
DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD Shankersinh Vaghela at his July 21 rally in Gandhinagar