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Shankarsinh Vaghela to take call on political future on 24 June

LiveMint logoLiveMint 20-06-2017 Maulik Pathak

Gandhinagar: With assembly elections in Gujarat due this year, veteran Congress leader and former chief minister Shankarsinh Vaghela said he will take a final call on his future political plans after consulting his supporters on 24 June.

Talking to reporters on Tuesday, Vaghela, 77, brushed aside talk of joining the Bharatiya Janata Party and forming a new political party.

“I have called all my Congress supporters and colleagues but not any legislators. I will consult and discuss with them regarding my future plans. An announcement in this regard will be made on 24 June. I have twice said publically in the recent past that I am not in the race for CM,” Vaghela said.

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

The leader of opposition in the Gujarat assembly said he saw himself as a ‘king-maker’ rather than ‘king’.

“By this time, we should have declared the candidates and decided whether we are going to fight in alliance with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Janata Dal (United) or not. But this is not happening,” he said, adding he has conveyed his concerns to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, vice-president Rahul Gandhi and senior leader Ahmed Patel.

Vaghela’s announcement comes at a time when BJP national president Amit Shah is meeting with the BJP workers in the Saurashtra region of 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.

While rumours have been rife about the Vaghela switching sides to BJP, a repeat of what BJP managed in UP with the defection of Congress’s Rita Bahuguna, could cause huge damage to the Congress’ quest for power after more than two decades 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

The party’s slogan for Gujarat elections ‘UP mein 300+, Gujarat mein 150+’ is also inspired from BJP’s massive victory in recent state elections in Uttar Pradesh.

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.

Gujarat Congress president Bharatsinh Solanki earlier this month said that sitting MLAs would be given tickets in the upcoming state elections. His announcement came in the wake of media reports about Congress MLAs being poached by the BJP.

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“The BJP would certainly like to have Vaghela on its side. He is an important leader and his presence in Congress can influence as many as 10-12 seats. Also, if he joins BJP with 10-15 MLAs, it would help BJP win at least 20-25 additional seats,” said a BJP official in the know of the development. He did not wish to be identified.

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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