By Ashima Makhija
Shankarsinh Vaghela’s decision to resign the Congress state unit has spelt, in clear terms, the ‘Congress Disarray’. He is the leader of Opposition in the Gujarat Assembly and the former Chief Minister of the State. After a disheartening performance in the State Assembly elections earlier this year and information about Congress MLAs’ cross voting in favour of NDA candidate (Ram Nath Kovind in the recent Presidential Elections), the party suffered yet another blow on 21st July 2017, as Vaghela announced his resignation and split the party before the Assembly elections slated for November in the later half of this year.
Why did he resign?
Before Vaghela’s formal statement on Friday, there was intense speculation about the growing rift in the Congress party and the former CM’s next step. It was well-known that Vaghela, a BJP rebel who had merged his Rashtriya Janata Party (RJP) with Congress 17 years back, was miffed by the Congress high command, which turned down his demand that he be declared the face of the party’s campaign and the CM candidate in the Assembly polls.
Even though about 36 of the 57 Congress legislators had backed his claim to the Chief Ministerial post, Congress felt that projecting him as a leader would upset the original Congressmen, viz. state party chief Bharatsinh Solanki and two former leaders of Opposition in the Assembly, Shaktisinh Gohil and Arjun Modhwadia. Thus, the primary question was whether Vaghela would revert to his RSS-BJP roots, or would he challenge the bipolar polity of Gujarat and launch a new outfit.
If launched, his third front may include Nationalist Congress Party, JD(U) and emerging young leaders like Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakore and Jignesh Mewani, who have become the rallying points for Patidars, Thakores, and Dalits respectively. But a likely return to BJP of the entire RJP faction was also a matter of intense speculation.
The controversial birthday party
Amidst roaring rumours, the Gujarat veteran announced that he would speak in detail on all issues at 2 pm on Friday in front of a massive gathering in Gandhinagar on his 77th birthday. Fearful of the political pandemonium his “birthday celebrations” would cause, Congress on Thursday evening issued a warning to Vaghela and told him that his public utterances would not be tolerated by the party any further. The Congress leadership also spoke of initiating disciplinary action against those who joined Vaghela’s rally, but he responded by saying that the legislators are not bonded labourers who can be controlled.
At the rally, Mr Vaghela said he had resigned as leader of the Opposition and would resign as a legislator after the Rajya Sabha elections. However, he ruled out joining the BJP, which he had split in the mid-1990s. He slammed the Congress leadership and culture while asking his supporters, including legislators, to decide their future. He declared his disappointment with the incompetent party leadership which failed to appoint a President for Ahmedabad City Congress in three years.
“It is my destiny that I became [a] victim of political conspiracy, first in the BJP and now in the Congress. I have always fought against injustice,” he said, indicating that a few leaders in the Congress conspired to ensure his expulsion. He blamed the party high command for ignoring his suggestions and not allowing him free rein to take on the BJP in the Assembly polls. Vaghela alleged the leadership to be indifferent to the MLAs and to the issues they raised.
Another internal feud in the Congress has brought in another advantage for the saffron party in PM Modi’s home state. The Congress leadership has been stunned by the open defiance of its legislators, several of whom are expected to join either BJP or Vaghela’s rebel party in the upcoming elections. The lack of internal democracy, discussion, and leadership in the Congress party has made its future in Gujarat bleak.
As the Congress painfully snaps into two and seems to be falling into a chasm of defeat, BJP is campaigning for another landslide victory in ‘Vibrant Gujarat’.
Featured Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
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