Ashok Gehlot, the Congress in-charge for election-bound Gujarat, said Shankarsinh Vaghela’s decision to quit the Congress was a “blunder”. Gehlot, an AICC general secretary, told The Indian Express that the Congress had given a lot to Vaghela since he joined the party and just four months before the elections, if he says he has “some complaints and the party is not hearing him out… nobody will believe him, neither in Gujarat nor outside”.
On Thursday, the Congress warned Vaghela that he should not make anti-party comments. It was the party’s first show of toughness after Vaghela, its legislature party leader, skipped several key party meetings and events over the past few months and also unfollowed senior leaders, including Rahul Gandhi, on Twitter. “His (Vaghela’s) revolt in the BJP 20 years ago was a blunder. Today also he is committing a blunder… The Congress is going to form the government and he is leaving the party,” Gehlot said on Friday.
“He has not done the right thing. The Congress made him PCC president, Union Cabinet Minister, chairman of the ITDC and kept him as Leader of the Opposition for four-and-a-half years. In 20 years, the Congress has given him a lot,” the former Rajasthan Chief Minister said. Vaghela’s exit would not affect the party’s election prospects and “our workers will put in double effort… The Congress will form the government. That is the mood in Gujarat,” Gehlot added.
The Rajasthan leader said Vaghela’s exit was under duress and mentioned PM Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah. “Modi and Amit Shah, I don’t know what pressure they mounted. There is news that the ED and the CBI had searched his premises… Under that pressure he deliberately adopted this posture to damage the Congress. That game went on for three months. And now that the Congress has taken a stand, he is saying all this,” Gehlot said.
When Vaghela’s supposed demands — to be made the CM face and the Gujarat Congress chief — came up, Gehlot said: “The Congress functions on the basis of certain principles, not on the basis of demands made by someone.”
Congress communications department head Randeep Surjewala said, “We sincerely hope he’ll continue to work for the party despite his decision to quit party posts.” He said Vaghela’s claim that the Congress had expelled him was “incorrect”.