Vaghela at it again

Virendra Pandit Gandhinagar | Updated on January 11, 2018 Published on July 19, 2017

Shankersinh Vaghela

Keeps Cong brass guessing with his July 21 birthday fete

Shankersinh Vaghela, who has kept the Congress leadership on tenterhooks with veiled threats regarding his continuity in the party, has had the party leadership rushing to placate him after his latest statement.

On July 21, to mark his 78th birthday, the Leader of Opposition in the Gujarat Assembly has invited all the 57 Congress MLAs, but not other Congress leaders.

“As Leader of the Opposition, I am inviting only the MLAs, not other party leaders,” he remarked, cryptically.

This has triggered panic in the Congress ranks and nearly 20 top party leaders have sought to mollify ‘Bapu’, arguably the party’s tallest leader.

Vaghela has announced that he will ‘deliver a message’ to the attendees and ‘share his feelings’ with them at Saturday’s gala event.

The birthday celebration, called ‘Sam Samvedana Sammelan’ (meeting to share feelings), crucially is to be held on a day when the Election Commission will notify elections to the Rajya Sabha. The term of Ahmed Patel, political secretary to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, is set to expire. Patel and Vaghela have shared strained ties for several years now.

His first deadline, June 24, passed off uneventfully after the Election Commission postponed the June polls to the Upper House until the Presidential election. On June 30, he accompanied Meira Kumar, the UPA Presidential nominee, to Sabarmati Ashram along with other leaders. His party leaders are still hopeful that the fresh deadline would, likewise, remain a non-event.

The Congress leaders’ fears are not without reason. In the late 1990s, the former Chief Minister had floated a uniformed cadre called “Shakti Dal”, comprising of thousands of youths, as an ‘army’ of personal supporters. He later disbanded it after joining the Congress.

For some time, Vaghela has been slamming the State Congress leadership and his supporters want GPCC chief Bharatsinh Solanki replaced. A few weeks ago, he ‘unfollowed’ all party leaders, including Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, from his social media accounts. His meetings with Gandhi and other leaders remained inconclusive.

His flip-flops, however, continued, keeping everybody guessing until the last moment. On Thursday, the venue for his birthday celebrations was Mahatma Mandir, the venue of the State Government’s biennial Vibrant Gujarat events; later, however, he shifted the venue to Town Hall at Gandhinagar.

He is expected to meet and discuss with his supporters across Gujarat and other places and also visit New Delhi before announcing a decision on his future course of action on Saturday, sources said.

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Published on July 19, 2017
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