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Shankersinh Vaghela joins Jan Vikalp, says it an alternative to Congress, BJP in Gujarat

Rebel Congress leader Shankersinh Vaghela had engineered a revolt of sorts in the opposition Congress last month.

india Updated: Sep 19, 2017 22:13 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Ahmedabad
Former Congress leader Shankersinh Vaghela.
Former Congress leader Shankersinh Vaghela.(HT File Photo)

Former Gujarat chief minister Shankersinh Vaghela joined Jan Vikalp, a forum launched by his supporters, on Tuesday in a bid to form a third front ahead of the crucial assembly elections, two months after quitting the Congress alleging lack of focus, direction, and unity.

Jan Vikalp was launched by his supporters after a month-long social media survey that was conducted by a group, claimed to be an association of young professionals, on various issues concerning those looking for an option other than the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress.

The outfit’s website says that for over the past 70 years, neither the BJP nor the Congress has given “anything except atrocities, exploitation, poverty, fear, hunger and corruption”.

Addressing a press conference, Vaghela said the people were fed up with the BJP and Congress and were desperate for an alternative.

With an intention to contest all the 182 assembly seats in the polls likely to be held in December, Vaghela said he was open to an alliance with parties like Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and others.

The former Union minister, however, said he will not contest the assembly elections and that the front will be “free of high command and its diktats”.

“The CM candidate would be selected through primaries seen in the American electoral system. The front will be totally democratic, which is not seen in any of the political parties,” the 77-year-old leader said.

He dismissed the argument that a third front does not succeed in Gujarat and instead ends up benefiting the ruling party.

“The Congress is not coming to power. Then how come the third front will damage Congress? This is anti-government and issues are related to anti-incumbency. Then how will it benefit the BJP?” asked Vaghela.

He said that the front will favour 25% reservation for people from the Economically Backward Class, in addition to the existing quota for the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Class.

At the same time, Vaghela said he has neither approached Patidar OBC quota stir leader Hardik Patel nor OBC leader Alpesh Thakor nor have they met him.

Vaghela quit the Congress party along with 13 other MLAs in July ahead of the crucial Rajya Sabha elections. Vaghela, who had snapped ties with the BJP in the late nineties to set up his own party that later merged with the Congress, had asked the party high command to hand over reins of the December election battle to him.

In the August 8 elections, eight Congress MLAs, including Vaghela, cross-voted in favour of the BJP, as a result of which Ahmed Patel could manage just enough votes to win a fiercely fought contest.

“They (Congress MLAs) rebelled because the high command did not listen to them. Many of them have joined the BJP. They will not be a part of the third front,” Bapu, as Vaghela is popularly known, said.

Vaghela’s son Mahendrasinh has also resigned as an MLA as well as from the Congress party but has not joined the BJP. Vaghela maintained Mahendrasinh will decide on his own about his political future.

Vaghela’s exit from the Congress is likely to affect the grand old party’s attempt to rejuvenate it in the state, where it is out of power since 1995. And the BJP, which is in power for 22 years now, is seeking another term amidst anti-incumbency and in the backdrop of the Patidar agitation.

Vaghela said that their campaigns will be “positive”. “I will not criticise (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi or (BJP president Amit) Shah but we will target the BJP government in the state. Similarly, I will not criticise Sonia (Gandhi) either.”

Issues like unemployment, contractual jobs, exploitation of SC/ST/OBC and GST will be part of their campaigns, which will begin after Vaghela visits various pilgrimages in the state on the first day of Navratra on September 21.

First Published: Sep 19, 2017 13:48 IST

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