Cong to field all 57 MLAs in Gujarat election, Vaghela keeps party guessing

The Congress believes it is in with a great chance to wrest power from the BJP which has ruled the state for the past 22 years.

india Updated: Jun 08, 2017 14:48 IST
Hiral Dave
Hiral Dave
Hindustan Times, Ahmedabad
Congress,Gujarat Congress,Shankersinh Vaghela
Congress president Sonia Gandhi with party leader Shankarsinh Vaghela during an event in Sabarkantha.(PTI File Photo)

The Congress in Gujarat will field all its 57 sitting MLAs in elections scheduled later this year, including veteran party leader Shankersinh Vaghela and his legislator-son, Mahendrasinh.

But the party’s announcement earlier this week aimed at keeping its flock together by keeping the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at bay from poaching its legislators, has brought little cheer to Vaghela.

Aides of the former chief minister say he is continuing to sulk. Miffed for not being made the chief ministerial candidate, Vaghela who made his displeasure with the party high command known last month by ‘unfollowing’ leaders such as Rahul Gandhi on the micro-blogging site Twitter, is reportedly seeing the announcement as yet another attempt to curb his influence within the Congress.

Fielding all sitting legislators mean that Vaghela will have lesser say in distribution of party tickets for elections to the 182-member Gujarat assembly.

Once a close ally of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Vaghela has kept local Congressmen guessing since he met BJP president Amit Shah in Ahmedabad in March. There have been persistent speculations that he might walk out with loyalist legislators to go back to the BJP which he had left in the 1990s.

Vaghela has denied any such move, but rumours about his future political plans have not died down.

The Congress leadership is also attempting to assuage his feelings. State Congress president Bharatsinh Solanki and party in-charge for the state Ashok Gehlot have been meeting Vaghela at his residence from time to time. The Congress believes it is in with a great chance to wrest power from the BJP which has ruled the state for the past 22 years.

The opposition party is, therefore, trying to keep its house in order. As a first step, Solanki has announced that appointments to all key party committees, both in districts and cities, will be made soon. He had in April accused the BJP of attempting to lure Congress legislators.

The BJP, meanwhile, is keeping its door open for Vaghela, considered the most well-networked politician in the state after Prime Minister Modi. “If there is a proposal (by Vaghela) and those wanting to join us that they are ready to accept BJP’s ideology, then they are welcome,” said BJP spokesperson Bharat Pandya.

First Published: Jun 08, 2017 14:47 IST