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Gujarat: Cong tries to tame Vaghela, BJP nurses reopened Patel wound

Virendra Pandit Gandhinagar | Updated on January 12, 2018 Published on June 08, 2017

Little seems to be working fine both for the ruling BJP and the main Opposition Congress Party in Gujarat, bracing for Assembly elections by the end of 2017, as both the political rivals are periodically nursing the wounds inflicted by their own ‘family’ members: while the Congress is trying to tame its tallest leader, Shankarsinh Vaghela, the ruling party has developed cold feet over the possibility of revival of the Patidar agitation.

In fact, the BJP, gloating at the Congress discomfiture over the Vaghela and Kerala cow-slaughter issues, suddenly found itself on a sticky wicket on Tuesday when the dormant Patidar agitation got a new lease of life after the alleged “custodial death” of a Patel youth in Mehsana, the home district of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The youth, Ketan Patel, 32, had been imprisoned on the charge of theft of Rs.9,500. After his death in a hospital, his family accused the officials of torturing him and refused to receive his body. The government also ordered an inquiry by the Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM), but the Congress grabbed this opportunity to paint the BJP into a corner, giving a bandh call in North Gujarat, where potato farmers are already agitating for remunerative prices and thrown the crop on the roads. Yesterday, the Mehsana town observed bandh.

On Thursday, the Congress joined hands with activists of the revived Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PASS) to enforce the bandh call. Unidentified people torched a state transport bus in Mehsana district after allowing some 25 passengers to disembark. There were also reports of road blockade and arson at some places, while police detained over 20 people in Himmatnagar.

Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Kisan Union, too, has threatened to launch agitation in support of various demands of milk farmers associated with Amul. In view of the neighbouring BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh battling the farmers’ fire, the Vijay Rupani Government is in a piquant situation, although, until last week, it was sitting pretty.

On its part, the Congress is trying to tame, or at least mollify, Vaghela who has been virtually boycotting most of the party meetings. Amid reports that he may quit the party as early as June-end, and his flip-flops, State Congress chief Bharatsinh Solanki managed to meet the 77-year-old Leader of the Opposition on Wednesday.

Vaghela, fondly known as “Bapu”, is seen to have the support of around 26 Congress MLAs, out of 57. Two days ago, in a bid to erode his support base among the Congress MLAs, Solanki had announced that all sitting 57 MLAs will be renominated in the Assembly elections. The Solanki-Bapu meeting was seen as another attempt to at least mollify the senior leader, whose refusal is seen as the reason behind the party cancelling a major Youth Congress rally in Ahmedabad on Friday.

This is, perhaps, the first time in his long political career that Vaghela, known as a media-savvy leader, is avoiding the media. This has added to the Congress concerns as the party is unsure of when he will spring his next surprise.

Published on June 08, 2017
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