The split in the Saurashtra unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came out in the open as supporters of former agriculture minister Dilip Sanghani burnt an effigy of the chairman of Municipal Finance Board and senior leader Vijay Rupani, alleging that the latter was responsible for Sanghani not getting a place on the dais at chief minister Narendra Modi’s event to launch the SAUNI irrigation project.
Sanghani, who was agriculture minister till he lost the Assembly elections in December 2012, was stopped by security officers from going on the stage during the ground-breaking ceremony for Saurashtra Narmada Avtaran Irrigation (SAUNI) Yojna on Monday. As a result, the former minister had to sit among the audience even as chairmen of various boards and corporations of the state government were seated on the dais along with Modi.
To protest what they termed as “an insult to Amreli town and its biggest leader”, youths burnt an effigy of Rupani in Amreli on Wednesday. The group was led by Amreli municipality president Kalu Pansuriya, the councillor who was suspended by the BJP last summer for disregarding party mandate and jumping in the fray for elections for the civic body chief. Incidentally, Pansuriya is a Sanghani supporter.
But Rupani, who hails from Rajkot, said he had nothing to do with Sanghani not getting a seat on the dais and that the protests were an act of personal vendetta. “It was a government function and I was not involved in drawing the list of dignitaries to be seated on the dais. It was finalised by minister in-charge of the district, minister of department concerned and the district collector. In fact, I had fought with security officers to let Sanghani come on the stage,” Rupani said. “The programme (of burning effigy) was by Kalubhai. He was suspended from the BJP last year. It is possible I might have had a role in his suspension. This programme is motivated by personal vendetta,” Rupani said.
However, Sanghani is still fuming. “The list of dignitaries is finalised in consultation with local leaders of the BJP. A former minister comes much higher in protocol than chairmen of boards and corporations. I don’t believe it was a mistake. I sat in the audience for 45 minutes and nobody called me on the stage,” Sanghani said. He claimed Water Resources Minister Babu Bokhiriya, with whom he shares personal relations, had telephoned him to invite him to the function.
After his defeat in the Assembly elections, Sanghani had started drifting away from Modi. The Pansuriya rebellion is believed to have only played to the ex-minister’s disadvantage. In the new organisational set up announced last year, Sanghani was appointed as special invitee to the state executive of the BJP. “Being the senior local leader of the BJP, Rupani was responsible for insulting Sanghani intentionally. Juniors than Sanghani were given place on the dais but he was not invited on the stage,” Pansuriya said.