Congress denies Gujarat CM seat to Shankersinh Vaghela
Citing anti-party activities, the Congress Party has denied the Chief Ministerial seat to senior Congress leader from Gujarat, Shankersinh Vaghela. According to party sources, Vaghela's anti-party activities hampered the chances of senior leader Ahmed Patel's election to the Rajya Sabha. He is further reported to have colluded with the BJP to orchestrate cross voting. Can Congress afford to lose Vaghela?
Vaghela, a veteran politician and legislator, currently serves as opposition leader in the Gujarat legislative assembly. Starting his political career with the Janata Party, and then sticking to the BJP, he later formed the Rashtriya Janata Party, which merged with Congress later on. He has also served as Gujarat CM (1996-97) and the Union Cabinet Minister of Textiles under the Manmohan Singh government (2004-2009).
Vaghela has been taking frequent trips to Delhi, attempting to convince the central leadership to choose him as CM face. He is also said to have sought backing from the BJP and has further been asked to split the party internally ahead of elections.
Gujarat state assembly polls are scheduled for later this year. Having launched its campaign this month, leaders have been lobbying for the CM seat through various means. Sources had earlier revealed that intense competition was on between Pradesh Congress Committee Chief Bharatsinh Solanki and Vaghela. Other probable candidates include national spokesperson Shaktisinh Gohil, and senior state leader Arjun Modhwadia.
Once a national party, Congress influence has been waning over time. BJP's splendid victory in the recent state assembly polls has confined Congress influence to a few states like Punjab and Himachal Pradesh. Gujarat holds significance as PM Modi's home state and as a BJP stronghold. Projecting a CM face can give it sufficient edge over the BJP, facilitating its symbolic revival.
Congress had chosen Veerbhadra Singh and Amarinder Singh, CMs of Himachal Pradesh and Punjab, respectively, after denying them the same initially. Although the same case might not apply to Vaghela, it needs to be seen if his popularity will force the party to reconsider. However, Congress's prospects remain bright in the background of Modi's absence from the state, along with Patidar and Dalit agitations.