In view of the election due next year to the Rajkot Municipal Corporation, 15 Congress corporators of Rajkot Municipal Corporation on Monday went to Ahmedabad and requested the state leadership of the party to re-induct former MLA Indranil Rajyaguru and also seek the support of senior party functionaries who have “either been sidelined or become inactive”.
Rajyaguru was elected MLA from Rajkot (east) Assembly constituency in 2012. At the time, he was the richest MLA in the state having assets worth Rs 123 crore. In the 2017 Assembly election, he shifted to Rajkot (west) constituency to challenge Chief Minister Vijay Rupani but lost to the CM. Not only that, Vashram Sagathiya and Mitul Donga, among his closest supporters, had also lost elections from Rajkot (rural) and Rajkot (east) seats respectively. Six months after his defeat in the Assembly poll, Rajyaguru resigned from Congress, stating he was not compatible with the “functioning of the party” and also alleged that some Congressmen worked against him during his challenge to CM Rupani. He now serves as Water Supply Minister in Rupani’s cabinet.
On Monday, the 15 Congress corporators, led by leader of opposition in RMC, Vashram Sagathiya, went to the headquarters of Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC), Rajiv Gandhi Bhavan, in Ahmedabad to apprise the leadership of the state of affairs of the party in Rajkot city in particular and in Saurashtra region in general. The delegation met senior Congress leaders Arjun Modhwadia, Siddharth Patel and GPCC president Amit Chavda. “We requested the party leaders to make Indranil Rajyaguru active in the party one more time,” Sagathiya told The Indian Express. “Rajyaguru is a tall leader of Saurashtra who has fought electoral battles even against the likes of Chief Minister. (We also told them) that we need his support and leadership if the Congress wants to win the RMC election due next year and to do well in the election to the district and taluka panchayats in Saurashtra,” he added. “Without him in the party, winning RMC election will be a very tough ask.”
Sagathiya also said, “We requested the leadership that they seek greater support and participation from old party workers and leaders who are not active.
Sagathiya said GPCC president Chavda assured them that he would reach out to Rajyaguru, but insisted that the Congress had neither asked him to resign nor accepted the resignation he sent. “Chavda also told us that he would put a couple of leaders on the job, if required to persuade Rajyaguru to become an active Congress member one more time,” the RMC opposition leader said.
Congress narrowly missed victory in the 2015 RMC election. The party won 34 seats out of 72, while the ruling BJP retained power with 38 seats. RMC is the largest civic body in Saurashtra region.
GPCC spokesperson Manish Doshi confirmed the Rajkot delegation’s meeting with the party president “The delegation also requested the leadership to ensure better coordination and prepare a road map leading to RMC election next year,” Doshi said. “The party stand is clear in these matters: Congress welcomes anyone who wants to contest the ideology of the BJP and the RSS. However, we do not want people who have soft corners for either of them.”
Speaking to The Indian Express, Rajyaguru said he was willing to become active in party politics once more if the party leadership ensured “proper working conditions”. “This time, my fight should be only against the BJP and not against our own,” Rajyaguru said. Stating that he was thankful to the party for giving him a ticket, which enabled him to get elected as an MLA, Rajyaguru said he did not want to “shirk responsibility” but “the party leadership should ensure proper working condition. There should be no backstabbing.”
The billionaire politician has had a running feud with Kunvarji Bavaliya, former MP from Rajkot Lok Sabha seat and former president of Rajkot city unit of Congress. However, in July 2018, Bavaliya quit Congress and joined the BJP. But Rajyaguru on Monday insisted that Bavaliya was not the only reason why he quit the Congress. “His style of functioning was part of my grievance against the party but that was not the only reason,” Rajyaguru said. “Nor am I expressing my willingness to return to the party fold only because he is no longer there,” he insisted. “Friends in the party are requesting my support and I feel I should help them if I can. However, I intend neither to contest RMC poll nor accept responsibility of president of Rajkot city unit of the party.”