A day after hoardings projecting Shankersinh Vaghela as chief ministerial candidate appeared in Vadodara, the senior Congress leader on Wednesday said he was not in any such race, even as the party blamed the ruling BJP for it and demanded a police probe.
The hoardings in Gujarati, which started appearing in the city on Tuesday, carried text that played on recent rumours that Vaghela could join the BJP. “Jai Jai Garvi Gujarat, Be it the BJP or the Congress, it will be Bapu’s (Vaghela) Government in 2017 Gujarat Vidhan Sabha. Bapu’s government for the welfare of all,” say the hoardings, signed off by “Well-wishers, We Proud Gujaratis.”
The Congress suspects the BJP’s hand in it. Vadodara Congress leaders said their “internal investigation” revealed that a contractor put up the hoardings across seven locations in the city at the behest of lesser-known outfit, which they claimed could be a front of BJP.
The Vadodara City Congress, which wrote to the city police, said the hoardings were an “attempt to disturb the political atmosphere in the state”.
Nilesh Brahmbhatt, a Congress spokesperson, said: “We found out that the hoardings were put up by a local contractor. When we approached him, he showed us a letter of instruction sent to him by the outfit, seeking that the hoardings be put up at different places in the city. When we tried to find out about the people running this outfit, we were unable to track any of them. We feel it is a deceptive front of the BJP.
Vadodara city BJP president and MP, Ranjan Bhatt, said: “No BJP person can do such things. This is not the culture of our party workers, it might be someone from their own party (the Congress) who is behind this act.”
Later in the day, newly appointed Congress’s Gujarat in-charge Ashok Gehlot said in Ahmedabad that neither of the two leaders has been yet named as CM candidate, and there were “no differences” between Vaghela and state party president Bharatsinh Solanki,
Both Vaghela and Solanki were present when Gehlot addressed the media after a lengthy state executive meeting.
“Vaghela and Solanki are not CM candidates. It will be decided by the party high command after the elections,” Gehlot said. “The party is united and all leaders will fight elections together.” he added.
Vaghela said, “I am not in the race for the CM candidate. The Assembly polls will be fought under the leadership of Bharatsinh Solanki, who is state party president.”
Asked about the meeting of a section of MLAs at Vaghela’s Gandhinagar residence where they had demanded him to be projected as the Congress’s CM face, Ahmed Patel, Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary, said: “Vaghela had not invited the MLAs for the purpose of getting him declared as CM candidate.”