Former chief minister Shankersinh Vaghela, who was ousted from the Congress in July 2017, joined the Sharad Pawar led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) on Tuesday. Vaghela who flashed on the national radar of Indian politics when he broke away from the BJP, leading to a fall of its first government in Gujarat in 1996, decided to join the forces uniting to remove the BJP-led government at the centre.
He was inducted in the party by NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, in presence of former union minister Praful Patel and Gujarat NCP chief Jayant Patel and MLA Kandhal Jadeja. Pawar announced that the party would use the “vast experience of Vaghela at the national level, besides Gujarat, to facilitate strengthening and consolidating the anti-BJP political forces to oust the BJP from power at the Centre.”
“Vaghela is a popular leader with a mass base. I have been telling him for a long time to join NCP. He has finally agreed. I welcome him in the party. The party will immensely benefit from his long political experience,” Pawar said while welcoming Vaghela into the party.
Pawar announced that Vaghela has been given the responsibility of party’s national general secretary and would work at the national level with non-BJP parties for a broad political alliance against the BJP in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections. He claimed that Vaghela’s joining the party would send a good political message against the BJP outside the state as well. “Keeping in view the present political scenario, we are considering how to work with non-BJP parties for giving a political alternative at the national level,” Pawar added.
Asked if Vaghela will contest Lok Sabha elections from Gujarat, Pawar replied, “We have not yet decided to contest Lok Sabha elections in Gujarat.”
Vaghela, in response to media queries, said, “my agenda is to remove BJP, not (Narendra) Modi from power at the Centre.”
Giving reasons as to why he wanted to remove BJP, he said, “democracy is in danger in the country under this government. All the constitutional bodies including parliament, Reserve Bank of India, Central Bureau of Investigation, Election Commission of India and Central Vigilance Commission are being destroyed under this government. Even a few supreme court judges openly said that everything is not well in the apex court. This BJP government is cruel, corrupt and conspirator. People are in great difficulty. Youths have no jobs. there is an agriculture crisis. Everybody is facing a problem.”
“Under these conditions and to save people from BJP’s misrule, I decided not to sit at home but join NCP to lessen the woes of the public,” Vaghela philosophically said. He said that even before joining the NCP, he had supported the Congress candidate in Jasdan assembly bypoll to strengthen anti-BJP political parties.
“From my political experience, I foresee a UPA-III government in the country”, he predicted. The 78-year-old Vaghela, who engineered defection among Congress MLAs on the eve of Rajya Sabha elections in August 2017 resulting in AICC treasurer and senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel register a victory with a very narrow margin, won two Lok Sabha elections in 1999 and 2004 from Kapadvanj seat.
Vaghela, who began his political career with BJP and RSS, had toppled the BJP government of Suresh Mehta, by engineering defection among BJP MLAs in 1995 and formed his own government with outside support of the Congress.
After Congress withdrew its support after a year, Vaghela floated Rashtriya Janata Party(RJP) but managed to win only four assembly seats in 1998 assembly polls. He subsequently joined the Congress but quit the party in 2017, creating problems for it at the crucial time of assembly elections in December 2017. He had floated Jan Vikalp Manch and fielded candidates from several seats in 2017 assembly polls but none managed to win.
Vaghela is currently facing a CBI case registered against him in connection with the sale of land belonging to the National Textile Mills in Mumbai to a private developer, resulting in huge loss to the government. Vaghela was Union Textile Minister in Manmohan Singh government when the deal took place.