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  India   Politics  23 Apr 2017  Gujarat: Congress in knots over Shankersinh Vaghela, Hardik Patel

Gujarat: Congress in knots over Shankersinh Vaghela, Hardik Patel

THE ASIAN AGE. | ASHHAR KHAN
Published : Apr 23, 2017, 3:25 am IST
Updated : Apr 23, 2017, 5:27 am IST

Patel has openly challenged the BJP and its top leadership and has vowed to finish them off in the state.

Senior Congress leader Shankersinh Vaghela (Photo: PTI)
 Senior Congress leader Shankersinh Vaghela (Photo: PTI)

New Delhi: As the Congress party hurtles from one disaster to another desertion, there is a growing sense of disquiet in Gujarat Congress. The state unit feels that despite the fact that elections are round the corner, there is no clarity from the top on how to take on the Modi-Shah juggernaut. What is adding to the despair in the party is that while PM Narendra Modi and BJP party president Amit Shah have already started holding road show and rallies, the Congress’ hand is nowhere to be seen. Gujarat goes to polls at the end of 2017.

According to party insiders, the two most crucial issues on which the party has not been able to make up its mind, and which have the potential to cost them dearly, are the twin issue of Shankarsinh Vaghela (Bapu) and Hardik Patel.

 

Mr Vaghela, 76, is keen to be projected as the CM candidate of the Congress. Though he denies this openly, social media is abuzz with proof of his ambition. Handles like “Bapu for CM” are rather active on Facebook and Twitter. In Gujarat political circles, Mr Vaghela is known as “Bapu”.

Several Congress MLAs of the state have also conveyed to the general secretary in-charge of Gujarat, Gurudas Kamat, that Mr Vaghela should be named for the top job. The Gujarat unit of the Congress feels that it will be beneficial for the party if a face anchors its efforts in the state, as was the case in the recently concluded Assembly elections in Punjab. Since Mr Vaghela has been the chief minister and has a pan-Gujarat appeal, a sizeable chunk prefers him. But the Congress is mum on the issue.

 

The second issue is 23-year-old Hardik Patel who successfully started a campaign for getting reservation for the influential Patel community in the state.

In 2015, he was holding rallies against the BJP state and central governments. And, according to reports, his rallies drew crowds of more than five lakh people.

Mr Patel has openly challenged the BJP and its top leadership and has vowed to finish them off in the state. Presently the Patels are about 1.5 crore out of Gujarat’s six crore population. Sources say that Mr Hardik and the Congress both want a pre-poll alliance to stop the saffron juggernaut.

Several options are on the table, from having common candidates with Mr Hardik’s outfit to having him join the Congress. But what is adding to the discomfiture of the state unit is that the central leadership is yet to take a call on the issue.

 

The Gujarat state unit feels that inactivity or indecisiveness will cost the party dearly. If insiders are to be believed, the BJP is working very hard to woo both Mr Vaghela and Mr Patel. Also, some Congress legislators are keeping a keen eye on the situation and may make a pragmatic choice. As one senior leader of the Congress said, “Already we have lost time, we have to move now, and move quickly.”

Tags: narendra modi, amit shah, hardik patel, shankarsinh vaghela
Location: India, Delhi, New Delhi