Shankersinh Vaghela, the 72-year-old self-proclaimed ‘Captain’ of the Gujarat Congress, is all set to lead the party in the state and its Assembly.
The position, sources said, would be uncontested because two major competitors — opposition leader Shaktisinh Gohil and party president Arjun Modhwadia — had lost the elections. Another major leader, former party president Siddharth Patel, also stands defeated.
Vaghela, a former BJP chief minister, had switched over to the Congress. Later, in 1998, he became a Union minister in the UPA-I government. A strong Kshatriya leader, he holds a lot of influence in the state — especially central Gujarat.
“Vaghela is still a strong leader, the only one in the party who can cut Modi to size,” a Congress leader said.
He said that though internal squabbles had dented the party’s image, Vaghela’s emergence as its sole leader would help the Congress build itself up from scratch.
Hriday Buch, party spokesperson, agreed.
“This time, we campaigned on issues like health and housing for the poor. The voters connected with the issues but seemed unconvinced about the leadership,” he said.
Legends of the fall
So, what caused the party’s defeat? A survey paper circulated in the Congress in July this year had said, “There is admiration for Narendra Modi but it’s not difficult to detect the growing rumblings in several sections of Gujarat…”
The 2012 results mean that the Congress failed to capitalise on the “rumblings” and “misgivings”.
“We never said we will win this election but we would have liked to limit the BJP to under 100 seats. We will have to go back to the drawing board,” said Modhwadia.
The Congress stubbornly refused to project an aggressive, son-of-the-soil leader to challenge Modi for fear of antagonising other key leaders in the state unit, leading to its defeat.
Also, palpable disquiet existed on account of ticket distribution. “While everything was controlled by people like CP Joshi and Mohan Prakash, state leaders had little say,” said a top leader in Ahmedabad.