GET Stock QuotesNews18 APP
News18 English
Powered by cricketnext logo
»
5-min read

Shankarsinh Vaghela May Spoil the Show for Congress in Gujarat Elections

The former Gujarat Chief Minister, who split from the Congress in July this year and formed the breakaway Jan Vikalp Morcha, has been conspicuous by his absence on the campaign trail. Some say Vaghela is a man scorned and one of his motives is to hurt the party that made him exit.

Uday Singh Rana | News18.com

Updated:December 7, 2017, 9:21 AM IST
facebookTwittergoogleskypewhatsapp
Shankarsinh Vaghela May Spoil the Show for Congress in Gujarat Elections
Vaghela, who understands North Gujarat better than most in the state, can hamper the Congress's chances severely. (PTI file photo)
Ahmedabad: With the campaign for the first phase of Gujarat Assembly elections drawing to a close, politicians from across the spectrum – from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi –scurry to address back-to-back rallies. But one man missing from the spotlight is Shankarsinh Vaghela.

The former Gujarat Chief Minister, who split from the Congress in July this year and formed the breakaway Jan Vikalp Morcha, has been conspicuous by his absence on the campaign trail. It is not that Vaghela isn't travelling the state. But instead of holding rallies, he is holding meetings with sympathisers and supporters, trying to keep decades-old connections and networks alive.

'Bapu', as he is known by his followers, isn’t aiming to "win" the upcoming election. With just 76 candidates in the fray, his Jan Vikalp Morha can, at best, hope to be a "kingmaker". His explicit aim is to create a model of "alternate" politics, different from both the BJP and the Congress.

And, sure enough, he has introduced some new ideas. He had recently announced that those who want to contest elections on a ticket from his Jan Vikalp Morcha can apply for them on the internet. The party uploaded a three-page form on its website. Once forms were filled, some candidates were shortlisted. Those shortlisted candidates then received a text message giving them details of the time and place at which they had to appear before the Jan Vikalp Morcha’s Parliamentary Board.

But some say Vaghela is a man scorned and one of his motives is to hurt the party that made him exit. "You have to understand that Bapu felt disrespected in the Congress. He never wanted to leave. Some people, like Ahmed Patel and Madhusudhan Mistry, who surrounded Sonia Gandhi were wary of his power in Gujarat. So they effectively pushed him out," said a source.

Vaghela, another source said, was now working to "teach a lesson" to the Congress. According to an aide, Vaghela's disillusionment with the party began even before the last Assembly elections.

"He wanted to contest from his home district of Gandhinagar in 2012, but the party asked him to contest from Kapadvanj in Kheda district. He not only agreed but because of him, the party won 32 seats in Central Gujarat around Kapadvanj. The Congress would have not won those seats had it not been for Bapu’s influence.”

Soon, people close to him in the party started to leave and join the BJP. Vaghela has claimed that he tried to stop them from leaving but got no support from the high command. Since Vaghela thought he had delivered "results" for the party, even though the Congress lost the 2012 election to then Chief Minister Narendra Modi, he expected that the party would announce before the 2017 polls that he would be the Chief Ministerial candidate to take on Vijay Rupani.

Vaghela, sources suggested, expected to have a free hand in running party matters in Gujarat. Some even said he hoped, at least, for a Rajya Sabha seat. But when it was clear that the RS ticket would go to Ahmed Patel, who was said to be Vaghela's arch rival within the party, the path was clear for the former CM.

A month after Vaghela left the Congress, Ahmed Patel won a contested Rajya Sabha election. In the days leading up to the election, Vaghela had kept the Congress guessing over whether he and his band of rebels would support Patel or not. Eventually, he did not and Patel won narrowly. Patel’s victory, say sources, opened old wounds for the former Gujarat CM.

One source said, "Take this example. One Congress MLA, a Muslim, owes his career to Bapu. He had told Bapu that he would vote against Ahmed Patel but in the end, did not do so. Bapu has not forgotten that. This time, Bapu has fielded another Muslim candidate against him to hamper his chances. He has done this in several places, to hurt people who crossed him."

Vaghela, who understands North Gujarat better than most in the state, can hamper the Congress's chances severely. North Gujarat is where the battle is said to be most hotly contested and with Vaghela’s spoilers in the fray, the BJP has reason to rejoice. And for Vaghela, a BJP victory is not a high price to pay.

"A leopard can never change its spots. A man who has been in the Sangh will never truly leave the Sangh," said a veteran Gujarati journalist, who knows Vaghela from his years of covering politics in the state.

Before Vaghela became CM with support from the Congress, before eventually merging his Rashtriya Janata Party with the Grand Old Party, Vaghela was a BJP man. He spent the early years of his public life as a committed RSS pracharak and cut his teeth in politics with the Bhartiya Jana Sangh, the BJP's predecessor party. Since resigning as leader of opposition, he has not been openly critical of Narendra Modi. He has, however, accused both the BJP and Congress of "political match-fixing" during the Ahmed Patel election.

But if the Congress without Vaghela is struggling, Vaghela without Congress is a shadow of his former self. Sources said a part of the reason he is not holding rallies in the state or fielding candidates on all seats is because his infant party’s treasury is running dry and he no longer has the organisational strength of the Congress, the oldest national political party in India.

There were rumours that Vaghela's son Mahendrasinh Vaghela would receive a BJP ticket, but that did not come to pass. The junior Vaghela is said to be waiting it out before making any moves and has joined neither the BJP nor his father's new political outfit.

But what does the future hold for the ‘Bapu’ of Gujarat politics? According to an aide, "He doesn't need anything in life. He has been an MLA, a Chief Minister, Leader of Opposition and a Member of Parliament. He is not a man in a hurry."
Read full article
Next Story
facebookTwittergoogleskypewhatsapp

Live TV

File is:/article-scroll-new.php