In Gujarat poll run-up, Shankersinh Vaghela exits Congress, BJP greets him on b’day

Within hours of Vaghela’s announcement at the Gandhinagar town hall before a large gathering of supporters to celebrate his 77th birthday, the BJP issued a statement conveying wishes from Chief Minster Vijay Rupani and state party chief Jitu Vaghani.

By: Express News Service | Gandhinagar | Updated: July 22, 2017 9:48 am
Gandhinagar: Leader of opposition in Gujarat assembly Shankarsinh Vaghela at a public meeting of his supporters on his 77th birthday, where he announced he was expelled from the Congress, in Gandhinagar on Friday. PTI Photo

Months Ahead of the assembly polls and weeks to go for elections to the Rajya Sabha, the Congress was dealt an embarrassing blow in Gujarat with veteran leader Shankersinh Vaghela on Friday announcing his exit from the party and the post of Leader of Opposition. Within hours of Vaghela’s announcement at the Gandhinagar town hall before a large gathering of supporters to celebrate his 77th birthday, the BJP issued a statement conveying wishes from Chief Minster Vijay Rupani and state party chief Jitu Vaghani.

Vaghela gave no indication about where he was headed, saying that his supporters were “free birds” and would decide the course of their political future. “I am not going to join any political party,” he said. In a speech riddled with contradictions, the former chief minister praised Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, describing her as a “tyagmurti (idol of sacrifice)”, and thanked senior party leader from the state Ahmed Patel for having always “treated me with respect”. He fondly recalled his early association with the RSS and Jan Sangh, and the “values” the two organisations taught him “about public life”.

But Vaghela also claimed that he had been the “victim” of internal conspiracies in the BJP and Congress. “Before quitting the BJP (he was expelled in 1996), I was perturbed. During the last two months, I was passing through the same problem,” he said, referring to how his images and name used to go missing from posters at public functions and invitations.

”I joined the BJP for service to the people. I joined Congress for the same reason,” said Vaghela. But he added that members of any party were not “bonded labourers” and that “bonds within parties” obstructed his functioning. The immediate provocation for Vaghela’s exit appeared to be his differences with state party chief Bharatsinh Solanki. “I am in the Congress now. But the party removed me 24 hours ago… How did they know what I am going to say today? They had no interest,” he said. Vaghela also described the party’s decision as “vinaash kaale vipreet buddhi (foolishness in bad times)”.

This claim, however, was denied by the Congress leadership in Delhi, with party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala saying, “It is his decision…Vaghela wanted to replace the current Gujarat Congress chief. A party is always bigger than individuals.”

Vaghela’s latest political move had been brewing for a while with sources saying that the 11 Congress MLAs, who voted for the NDA’s presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind last week, may have been from his camp.
But his exit is being seen a setback for the Congress in many ways.

In the current band of the party’s leaders in Gujarat, Vaghela was among the few who could command a crowd and was viewed as a national leader who was in touch with workers at the grassroots. He was also one of the few who had a reach beyond the state, sharing a good rapport with NCP leader Sharad Pawar, RJD chief Lalu Yadav and LJP head Ramvilas Paswan.

Vaghela is also seen as a leader who could mobilise the OBC and Kshatriya communities, who constitute nearly 27 per cent of the population in Gujarat. This is a votebank that the BJP has been eyeing this time, especially with the discontent among Patidars and Dalits.

Ominously for the Congress, Vaghela indicated that his quitting would take a bigger toll on the party in the assembly elections. “Before coming here, I had gone to meet a few MLAs. I asked them not to come (to the birthday event). When I had organised a gathering in Gandhinagar a few days ago, I had asked them not to come… There are 15-20 people who have not come,” he claimed.

At least two Congress MLAs — Raghavji Patel and Vaghela’s son Mahendrasinh Vaghela — were present at the town hall event, which is being viewed as “a rebellion” against the party. The other MLAs who greeted him publicly on stage included NCP state chief Jayant Patel and the party’s Porbandar MLA Kandal Jadeja.

During his speech, Vaghela recounted his political journey that began in 1967 from Patan, the ancient capital of the state. “I was part of Seva Dal when Congress was at its peak. I would have stuck to the Congress, if I had needed power. I am somebody who will leave power willingly,” said Vaghela, adding that “rebellion was in his blood” and that he would continue to fight for righteousness.

He claimed that he had told the Congress president when they last met that he might not be with the party after some time, “but would not join the BJP”.

While recalling his association with the RSS and Jan Sangh, Vaghela spoke about the current politics of the BJP. “I no more see the simplicity the party once had. It is just all about publicity now. Crores are spent on marketing and advertisements and the people are not benefitted in any manner,” he said.

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  1. H
    Jul 22, 2017 at 3:01 pm
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    1. T
      Jul 22, 2017 at 12:53 pm
      Shankar Singh Vaghela will end up as another Keshubhai Patel
      1. B
        Buddhdev Pandya
        Jul 22, 2017 at 12:43 pm
        The tragedy for the Indian National Congress is that it has missed a strategic goal to ensure the 'Castle' of Narendra Modi was well studied and auctioned over the past decade. In a crucial state like Gujarat, the party structure and leadership should have been a priority over any other business. Mr Shankersinh Vaghela, no doubt a good leader and influential, but his relevance should have been well calculated to take a chance. If he was not performing, he should have been replaced by a leader who can command respect with the capacity to strengthen the party structure.
        1. M
          Jul 22, 2017 at 8:46 am
          Surjewala says " A party is always bigger than individuals". Does he have the guts to say the same thing to "individuals" of the Sonia family? Cowards and hypocrites are everywhere in the pseudo secular congress
          1. B
            Buddhdev Pandya
            Jul 22, 2017 at 1:01 pm
            We love to settle political scores. When it does not work we come down to personal abuse and 'false' propaganda. The people of India are no fools. They elected an alternative - NaMo to govern India. They give the mandate that we trumpet across when arguing ' mine is right'. For the past six decades, guess who they have voted for! Indira Gandhi was badly washed out, they laughed at her..then she came back with a thumping majority. Sonia Gandhi, a house wife, on, turned around her party to win two elections and kept BJP out of power. She was not a PM and despite her party having no overall majority managed to get all her key bills the Parliament. Most of their budget and other bills such as GST etc are being used by the current government. We have gone to Moon and around Marsh, sending satellites and yes our economic growth was not achieved in the three' years, it benefited BJP. So we need to wake up... More of our Jawans are being killed by the donkey headers
            1. S
              Shashank Sinha
              Jul 22, 2017 at 5:04 pm
              We know a few parties in India where Individuals are more important than parties. Sonia and Rahul in Congress ,Mamta in Trinamool,Mayavati in BSP,Lalu Prasad in RJD,Paswan in LJP, Chandrashekhar Rao in his party, etc. Whom r you making fool Surjewala ji.
              1. K
                kamal singh rawat
                Jul 22, 2017 at 9:36 pm
              2. K
                kamal singh rawat
                Jul 22, 2017 at 9:34 pm
                Well Ssid
                1. K
                  kamal singh rawat
                  Jul 22, 2017 at 9:36 pm
                  Well Said
                2. D
                  Devisahai Meena
                  Jul 22, 2017 at 6:01 am
                  Its saying that the snake represents only venom and never misses its den . And Vaghela has proved it .
                  1. B
                    Buddhdev Pandya
                    Jul 22, 2017 at 1:09 pm
                    There are some political groups is expert in breading 'rats' and master at planting 'trojan horses' in other camps. The old Janta Party used almost all their leaders who were Ex-Congress, using Sardar and Gandhiji- both Congresses. so let us not be like 'cattle calling a pot - black.'
                  2. S
                    SK Gupta
                    Jul 22, 2017 at 4:50 am
                    Another rat deserted the sinking boat!
                    1. J
                      Jagdish Chandra
                      Jul 22, 2017 at 4:34 am
                      How high and mighty would be a political leader could not challenge the authority of parent Party, BJP President Amit Shah has proved it by choosing person for Highest Chair of the nation as well as Chief Minister UP. Contrary to it, congress-giving priority to individual to highly and mighty, that is not cup of tea for common person. If rival congress leader would not join archrival BJP, which means issuing license to incumbent dispensation to extend their term for another five yrs and chance of congress to seize the power would be dim in upcoming election in Gujarat. It is merely personal guess or stock of the situation but not prediction in any means.
                      1. A
                        Jul 22, 2017 at 3:40 am
                        You blame everyone except yourself and the Sunni Muslim terrorists the world is suffering from, Can Inask you something? Why are all terrorists Muslims? Are all Muslims like you also terrorists? Why is that if you are a terrorist whether in France or India or Netherlands or U.K. everywhere they are all Sunni Muslims? Why are all Muslims ugly communal jihadi? Why is that you as a male Muslim dog can have multiple wives but your wife and mother cannot have multiple lovers or husbands? You claim that having multiple wives saves Muslims from prosst ution but then why are there so many wives daughters of yours sitting as prrosst ute? And if you already divided my country and got your own two Islamic countries why are you illegally in my country? And why are you growing like pigs from 4 percent to 20 percent today? To divide India again? Why are Muslims not happy in Ppaakistan and Bbaangladesh since it is your country and yet you complain in India?
                        1. O
                          Jul 22, 2017 at 4:05 am
                          Is your question is to sankersinh Vaghela?
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