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In Shankersinh Vaghela’s Attempt to Stitch Anti-BJP Coalition, Congress Sees a Saffron Conspiracy

Although Vaghela has vehemently denied any role in the political events leading up to the Gujarat assembly election in 2017, many believe that the series of setbacks the Congress faced just ahead of the polls were his handiwork.

Meghdoot Sharon | CNN-News18

Updated:November 15, 2018, 11:35 AM IST
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In Shankersinh Vaghela’s Attempt to Stitch Anti-BJP Coalition, Congress Sees a Saffron Conspiracy
File photo of Shankersinh Vaghela (PTI)
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Ahmedabad: With the general election soon approaching, veteran politician Shankersinh Vaghela is in the news again. The wily politician, who has earlier been in the Congress and the BJP besides floating his own political outfit, says he will personally visit all non-BJP political parties across the country and try his best to bring them under one umbrella for the 2019 general election.

Vaghela is presently touring the country and meeting with leaders in an attempt to stitch a coalition against the BJP.

However, Congress leaders in Gujarat see his self-proclaimed mission with a huge amount of scepticism. Most of them are of the opinion that this could be yet another ploy by the BJP to divide opposition vote base in the state, thereby strengthening the its own chances in the 2019 election.

Although Vaghela has vehemently denied any role in the political events leading up to the Gujarat assembly election in 2017, many believe that the series of setbacks the Congress faced just ahead of the polls were his handiwork.

Just months prior to the elections, Vaghela had quit the Congress along with 13 of his loyalists, bringing the Congress’ strength down to 44 in the state assembly. Prior to this, a dozen of Vaghela’s loyalists had cross-voted in the presidential election as well. In addition, a revolt by MLAs who swore allegiance to him also turned an easy re-election to Rajya Sabha for senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel into a cliff hanger.

Earlier this week, Vaghela met NCP supremo Sharad Pawar with the aim of “strengthening the mahagathbandhan” before the general elections.

“Met NCP President Sharad Pawarji and Praful Patelji before few days and shared my support towards uniting and strengthening mahagathbandhan for upcoming national loksabha elections (sic),” he tweeted.

Vaghela’s aide Parthesh Patel said he has met several leaders including Chandrababu Naidu, Mamata Banerjee and Sharad Yadav in the past couple of months with the aim of unifying all parties against the BJP.

Noted political commentator and senior journalist Dr Hari Desai says there is enough substance in the apprehension of the Congress party about the Vaghela’s intentions.

“Vaghela is the B-team of the BJP. And his actions are a direct fallout of the compulsions that he is facing. He has had CBI and ED raids against him in a land case when he was the Union Textiles minister. The events leading up to the Gujarat assembly elections last year gave a clear cut indication of the intentions and compulsions of Vaghela,” Dr Desai told News18.

The senior political analyst further added that there is no merit in the accusation of Vaghela that the Congress party leadership did not give him his due or that his suggestions were ignored.

“He was with the Congress party for a period of 32 years during which he was party president of the state unit, the Leader of Opposition and even a cabinet minister. His say was final in at least a couple of assembly elections and general elections as well. He did precious little to revive the chances of the Congress party while he was at all these posts,” Dr Desai said.

About a month ago, strong rumours were afloat that Vaghela was going to join the Sharad Pawar’s party. At about the same time, his son Mahendrasinh Vaghela, who joined the BJP barely three or four months ago, also quit the BJP.

However, Vaghela said that he would not join the NCP and instead he would work with all like-minded parties before the general election.

The Congress party in Gujarat is distancing itself from Vaghela and his mission of bringing non-BJP parties together. GPCC spokesperson Dr Manish Doshi told News18 –

“Shankersinh Vaghela is no longer with the Congress party and since he has said he will be active in politics, it is natural that he will make political statements. As far as the GPCC is concerned, it has no say in the coalition, as this decision will be taken at the national level.”

However, another senior leader who did not wish to be named, said, “It appears as if Shankersinh Vaghela has been asked to divide the non BJP votes before the elections. He could well be a BJP mole trying to get insider information from leaders who are working to form a coalition against the BJP for the forthcoming general election.”

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