Gujarat congress leader Shankersinh Vaghela who sent his resignation to Congress President Sonia Gandhi from the post of leader of opposition party in state assembly may join the Sharad Pawar led NCP ahead Gujarat elections, However, insiders say that he is still mulling his next move.
Congress leader Shankerinsh Vaghela won from Kapadwanj seat in Kheda district by a slender margin of 6,597 votes defeating his BJP rival Kanubhai Dabhi in 2012 Assembly election. Vaghela, head of Gujarat Congress campaign committee for the 2012 assembly elections, polled 88,641 votes while his opponent Dabhi secured 82,044 votes.
Political observers say now Vaghela will pitch himself as an ‘anti-Congress’ and ‘anti-BJP’ alternative in the Gujarat elections as he feels that the situation is ripe for him to make the last attempt for the coveted chief minister’s post, which he held for about a year in the 1990s.
The forthcoming state election is the last chance for the septuagenarian to give a shot at power and that’s why he took the risk of quitting Congress after 20 years of association, they say.
Vaghela reportedly tried to convince the Congress to make him state party president and give him a free hand to fight the polls against the BJP. However, the Congress did not pay heed to his suggestion leaving him with no option but to quit the Sonia Gandhi-led party, the observers say.
The Congress and the BJP are “worried” over the next move of ‘Bapu’, as Vaghela’s supporters fondly address him, though they may not accept it openly. Sources in Congress say that Vaghela’s next move is being closely watched by the party.
“Though Vaghela may deny that this (resignation) is for power, the people of Gujarat know that he has betrayed the Congress when it was looking to come back to power in the state after almost two decades,” a source said.
“People will never accept him as the third force for quitting the party at a crucial juncture,” the source further said.
The sources in BJP say the saffron party is also calculating the impact of Vaghela’s exit on the political scene in Gujarat and that it hopes he may not pose a formidable challenge to its quest to retain power.
The party will now have to re-work its strategy keeping in mind the ‘Vaghela factor’. “Vaghela had earlier formed a political party but has not been successful. He knows it is difficult for him to survive as a third front,” the BJP source said. For record, the Congress is downplaying Vaghela’s exit and its impact on its electoral prospects.
At the grassroots level, for Congress workers, Vaghela quitting the party will mean just one thing: more work in the run-up to the election. Even if Vaghela’s supporters don’t quit the party right now, they are no longer likely to go campaigning for the election, which means harder work for Gujarat Congress workers. Congress is definitely going to suffer in this election, but all the anti-BJP sentiments among so many groups give some hope.”
Abdul Hafiz Lakhani is a senior journalist based in Gujarat.