Congress’s Gujarat affairs in-charge Ashok Gehlot brought together legislature party leader Shankersinh Vaghela and state party president Bharatsinh Solanki at a press conference on Friday to critically appraise the three years of Narendra Modi government at the Centre — a meet purported to prove that everything was alright within Congress.
There have been reports of a rift between Vaghela and Solanki over chief ministerial candidate of the party.
Vaghela had returned Thursday from a week-long “leave”. The senior Congress leader taking a “leave” at the time of Rajya Sabha elections in Goa, Gujarat and West Bengal, which have since been put-off, had added to speculation about him being unhappy. He had also unfollowed all Congress leaders, including party vice-president Rahul Gandhi, on Twitter, and had written to the high command to declare a CM candidate ahead of the Gujarat Assembly elections, leading to rumours that he was unhappy in Congress and might return to BJP.
On Friday, however, Vaghela trashed the rumours as “lies” and clarified that he was on a visit to China as part of “an official ex-MP’s panel” and “the tour that had been planned well in advance”. The CLP leader reiterated that he “was not joining BJP”.
Gehlot, who met Vaghela at his residence in Gandhinagar earlier, told mediapersons, “Such rumours have been perpetrated by BJP so that there is infighting in Congress. Through such rumour mongering, they want to send out a wrong image (of Congress) in a bid to create doubt and confusion among people. There is no credence to such rumours, especially when Bapu (Vaghela) himself has stated several times that he is not joining BJP.”
Calling it a BJP ploy, he said that there was no party in any state without differences. “Maybe Modi is scared of Bapu… It appears that he is still afraid of him because of the 1995 coup (when Vaghela had rebelled against BJP, formed his own party and went on become CM), which is why he keeps targeting him even now. All decisions regarding the polls, including decision on the CM face, will be taken by the high command,” said Gehlot.
A film titled ‘Teen saal, Bees tikdam’, which showed the “failures” of 20 initiatives taken by Modi government in the last three years, spurred Gehlot to say that NDA under Modi had failed to make fulfill its poll promises and indulged in media management, propaganda and copied most of Congress-led schemes.
Gehlot further took on the BJP government at the Center for spending allegedly Rs 2000 crore in advertisements celebrating the three years of Modi government and enumerated their failed policies. In Gujarat, he said, Modi turned a blind eye to the GSPC scam, the CNG scam and the allegations of murky land deals made by former Gujarat CM Anandiben Patel’s daughter Anar Patel. He also said that Modi had not constituted an SIT to look into the Panama paper expose done by The Indian Express, even as he had made a poll promises of bringing back black money to India.
Gehlot, who is expected to camp in the state, for a few more days, said, “Modi believes in the dictum Mera Bhashan hi Mera Shasan Hai (My speech is my governance)… Despite claiming to be a ‘party with a difference’, we are pained to see BJP spending Rs 2000 crore worth of taxpayers money in celebrating their three-year-rule. ”
Asked about Congressmen joining the ruling party, BJP spokesperson Bharat Pandya told mediapersons at another press conference, “If someone from Congress who is in tune with our ideology and approaches us, we will consider, but we are not reaching out to anybody”.