Ahmedabad: Over a fortnight after his son rejoined the Congress, veteran Gujarat politician and the only non-BJP leader with a state-level connect Shankersinh Vaghela is all set to follow suit after ditching the party at a critical juncture over five years ago.
Still cagey about his plans, Vaghela said, “It is obvious that when my son has joined the Congress, I will advocate strongly for the party. As for my joining, the media seems to be in more hurry than me.”
‘Negotiations in the final stage,’ says Vaghela
“Negotiations are at an advanced stage with the central leadership of the Congress party, I will let you know the date too, hopefully, soon,” Vaghela told the Free Press Journal on Friday evening.
Asked about speculation that his joining the Congress in the presence of party chief Mallikarjun Kharge had been finalised for tomorrow, Bapu, as he is known in the political circles and his huge mass of followers, laughed, “Is that a question? That I will join in the presence of Kharge-ji. I can’t possibly walk-in alone. I told you when and how, I will let you know.”
Official sources in the State Congress told the Free Press Journal that there was no schedule of Kharge to visit Gujarat on Saturday. “We don’t have an official communication so far,” Gujarat Congress chief spokesperson Manish Doshi said.
It might be recalled that Vaghela and seven supporting Congress MLAs had backstabbed the party and cross-voted in the 2017 Rajya Sabha election of Ahmed Patel who barely managed to win with a single vote. The veteran leader and political adviser to the then Congress president Sonia Gandhi died of Covid-19 related complications in 2020.
Vaghela’s son had joined the BJP in 2017 and resigned within months
Vaghela’s son Mahendrasinh, who was elected an MLA from North Gujarat’s Bayad in 2012, had quit the Congress to join the BJP in 2017 but within months resigned from there too. He rejoined the party on October 28, 2022. His father quit the Congress too but never joined the BJP.
However, it was clear way back on October 4, 2022, that Shankersinh Vaghela would return to the Congress when he addressed a joint press conference with former Gujarat Congress president Arjun Modhawadia after both were issued summons in the alleged scam involving former home minister Vipul Chaudhary in the Dudhsagar Dairy.
Chaudhary, a minister in the first BJP Government of 1995 had joined the Shankersinh Vaghela revolt that year and became the Minister of State of Home under Vaghela’s Rashtriya Janata Party government.
He had subsequently joined the BJP, but was neither given an election ticket nor any post in the party while another North Gujarat leader and chairman of Banas Dairy Shankar Chaudhary was being propped up at his cost while Vipul is senior to him.
Instead of lying low, Vipul Chaudhary created his own grassroots organisation called Arbuda Sena named after Chaudhary Patel (also called Anjana Patel) community deity Maa Arbuda. The Sena has by now emerged as a force to reckon with in North Gujarat. Sources say the Chaudharys in North Gujarat can influence results on as many as 34 seats.
Chaudhary was arrested on September 15, 2022, along with his CA, in a scam that took place between 2005 and 2016 when he was the chairman of the cash-rich Dudhsagar Dairyin North Gujarat.
With Shankersinh Vaghela coming out in Vipul Chaudhary’s support, North Gujarat would become an uphill task for the BJP in the December elections. Vaghela is a strong OBC leader from the region. This would directly help the Congress party.