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Gujarat Congress leader Shankarsinh Vaghela hits out at party leadership

LiveMint logoLiveMint 24-06-2017 Maulik Pathak

Gandhinagar: Sending out a strong message to the party’s top leadership, veteran Gujarat Congress leader Shankarsinh Vaghela on Saturday hit out at the party for not doing enough to win elections in Gujarat and said that he would not prefer to be on a side that has already made up its mind to lose.

“We follow you because we are in your party but don’t consider it as my weakness. Even if you are wrong, do we have to keep quiet? My anger with Delhi High Command is also that… if Congress has decided to commit suicide then I am not willing to fall in the ditch with them,” Vaghela said in his speech to about 1,500-odd supporters who had gathered in large numbers in Gandhinagar at his invite.

Vaghela said that the party was yet to do homework and select candidates for the upcoming state assembly polls that are slated to be held by December. He said that the party lost 28 seats in 2012 elections due to mismanagement and delay in picking candidates whose names were finalized at the last moment.

“I have conveyed my grievances to the Delhi leadership but they somehow seem to overlook that the fact that elections will be held in December this year and that they would not be postponed. After the crushing defeat in Uttar Pradesh you have to be more vigilant in Gujarat,” he said while adding that the party lacked foresight and proper planning.

The former Gujarat CM said he also believed that this time, because of Patidar agitation and other social unrest in the state, the chances for Congress making a comeback in a state where it has been out of power for over two decades now, were bright.

The former chief minister had earlier this week said he will take a final call on his future political plans after consulting his supporters on 24 June.

Vaghela, who is also the leader of the opposition in the state assembly, said today that he would visit Delhi in the first week of July to meet top Congress leaders and “to convey the feelings of Congressmen gathered here. We will take a call after that,” he added.

He said that he had already conveyed to Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi that some people from within were trying to push him out of the party.

Vaghela said that this would be his last political battle before he hangs his boots. While rumours have been rife about the Vaghela switching sides to Bharatiya Janata Party, a repeat of what BJP managed in UP with the defection of Congress’s Rita Bahuguna Joshi, could cause huge damage to the Congress’ quest for power in Gujarat.

The ruling BJP in Gujarat is looking to win 150+ out of 182 assembly seats in the upcoming state elections by poaching disgruntled Congress MLAs.####SUBBOX####

One of main demands of Vaghela’s supporters was that he be declared as the chief ministerial candidate of the party but this has been declined by the Congress central leadership. As many as 36 MLAs (out of 57) had in April urged the central leadership to declare Vaghela as the CM candidate. On 20 June, Vaghela had said that he is not angling to be projected for the top post.

“In 2002, I had promised Sonia Gandhi that I will always be loyal to the party, but that promise is over now. I told her this when I met her few days ago,” Vaghela said on Saturday. He reiterated that he was not joining the BJP and was very much with the Congress so far.

In March, national BJP national president Shah and Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani met with Vaghela in his office, prompting speculation that Vaghela, a former chief minister and a former BJP leader, would again join hands with the saffron party. Vaghela had then clarified that he was going to remain with the Congress and had no plans to join the BJP.

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