Ahmedabad: Cross voting by 11 Congress MLAs in Gujarat in Presidential elections has widened rift in the Gujarat Congress with party high command cautioning its workers not to attend a meeting called by its senior-most leader Shankersinh Vaghela on his 77th birthday on Friday.
Congress sources told CNN-News18 that party has held Shankersinh solely responsible for cross-voting in the Gujarat Assembly.
Shankersinh's revolt may have long term implications in the poll bound state, even imperilling the Rajya Sabha seat held by Ahmed Patel, Congress President Sonia Gandhi's closest aide.
Elections for the four seats to Upper House from Gujarat are slated next months. BJP can easily win three, while the fourth has for long been held by Patel for many terms now. Cross voting by these eleven MLAs seen to be close to Shankersinh can further embarrass and weaken the Congress which has been out of power in Gujarat for almost three decades now.
The former Gujarat CM who rebelled against the BJP to join Congress has been at loggerheads with the party for almost a year now. He's just has stopping short of announcing any drastic step for a couple of months.
So has this cross voting by Shankersinh supporters precipitated the crisis brewing in the Gujarat Congress? We will come to know of it on Friday when the former Union Textiles Minister meets his supporters.
These are some of the options before the septuagenarian leader:
There is a strong possibility that he may quit the Congress. As he is turning 77, Shankersinh would he strike a bargain to secure his son and MLA Mahendrasinh Vaghela's political future.
The other option for Shankersinh is to relinquish the post of Leader of Opposition.
Shankersinh has invited only opposition MLAs - those from the Congress, NCP and JD(U). Congress leaders holding only organisational positions are not on the guest list. . Some political observers infer from this that Shankersinh may not quit the party but will just give up the post of the Leader of Opposition. By doing so, he continues to hold bargaining chips within the Congress.
Shankersinh is an extremely seasoned politician who once broke away from the BJP in 1996 to form his own outfit. He eventually merged his party with the Congress a couple of years later. Some of his supporters may want him to take the float a new party once again, the question however is- will Bapu take the plunge at this age?