Congress’s Gujarat affairs in-charge Ashok Gehlot brought together senior 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 is all right within Congress. Vaghela, a former Gujarat CM, and Solanki have been seen to be at daggers drawn of late — primarily over the Congress announcing its CM face before the elections later this year.
Vaghela had returned from a week-long “leave” on Thursday. The “leave” — at the time of Rajya Sabha elections in Goa, Gujarat and West Bengal, which have since been put off — had added to speculation that he was unhappy with the party. He had also unfollowed all Congress leaders, including party vice-president Rahul Gandhi, on Twitter, fuelling speculation that he might return to BJP.
On Friday, Vaghela trashed the rumours as “lies” and clarified that he was on a visit to China as part of “an official ex-MPs’ panel”. He said the tour had been planned “well in advance”. Vaghela reiterated that he is “not joining BJP”. Gehlot, who met Vaghela at his residence in Gandhinagar earlier, told the media, “Such rumours have been perpetrated by BJP so that there is infighting in the Congress…. There is no credence to such rumours, especially when Bapu (as Vaghela is called in Gujarat) himself has stated several times that he is not joining BJP.”
Gehlot also said, “Maybe Modi is scared of Bapu…. It appears he is still afraid of him because of the 1995 coup (when Vaghela had rebelled against BJP, formed his own party and become CM), which is why he keeps targeting him. All poll-related decisions, including decision on CM face, will be taken by the party high command,” he said.
A film titled Teen Saal, Bees Tikdam, which showcases “failures” of 20 initiatives of the Modi government, spurred Gehlot to say that NDA under Modi had failed to fulfill its poll promises and indulged in media management and propaganda.