Angry over 2017 ticket, ‘lack of vision’, former Gujarat Cong stalwarts jump ship

Former Congress MLA Manibhai Vaghela joined the BJP on Sunday in the presence of state president CR Patil in Vadgam in Gujarat’s Banaskantha district. With state elections due later this year, the 68-year-old leader’s shift to the BJP holds significance, especially for the electoral battle in Vadgam constituency, a Congress bastion.

The development has also come at a time when sitting Independent MLA from Vadgam Jignesh Mevani was arrested for a tweet by Assam police. After being released on bail on Monday, Mevani was held again for another case in the state. Mevani has pledged support to the Congress and is likely to fight the Assembly elections from the Vadgam constituency on the Congress’s symbol.

Vaghela, who was elected from the Vadgam constituency as a Congress candidate in 2012, had to change his constituency to Idar after Congress decided to support Mevani from the seat in 2017 polls. At the time, Mevani had emerged as a Dalit youth leader following protests over the Una flogging incident. Eventually, Vaghela lost the polls and Mevani’s victory was largely credited to the fact that the Congress did not put up a candidate in Vadgam.

Vaghela, a farmer and industrialist from neighboring Sabarkantha district, had resigned from the Congress party in December last year. The veteran was among the party’s senior-most leaders in the state and has been with the Congress since the beginning of his political career.

In his resignation letter to party president Sonia Gandhi, Vaghela listed denial of party ticket from Vadgam constituency in 2017 assembly elections among his grievances. He also mentioned that despite his loyalty to the party during Ahmed Patel’s Rajya Sabha election in 2017, when around 15 party MLAs resigned, he was denied the party ticket from Vadgam constituency.

“Whether I get a ticket or not, I will leave no stone unturned to defeat Mevani wherever he fights election from,” he told The Indian Express.

Earlier this month, Vaghela had also met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi. Sources in the BJP say that Vaghela’s induction is part of the party’s strategy to increase influence on seats where it is weak, and has been losing polls for long.

“Our party has been focusingsing on seats which are traditional Congress bastions. Vaghela’s induction in the BJP can be seen from that perspective. Another example is the induction of Dinesh Sharma, former Congress Leader of Opposition in Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, who has a strong base in Bapunagar area. We lost the Bapunagar seat in the last elections,” said a BJP leader.

“Similarly, our party has been planning for Banaskantha district where BJP could only win two out of the nine seats in 2017. Vadgam is a Congress bastion and we do not have any strong candidate for the seat. Vaghela is a former MLA from the seat who has a strong base there; so, if he fights from there on a BJP ticket, the party stands a fair chance of winning the seat,” the leader added.

Said another political observer from Banaskantha, “If the BJP fields Vaghela from Vadgam then it stands a good chance of winning the seat against Mevani. Vaghela is an industrialist and former MLA and has a strong base here among all the communities. Apart from that, Mevani might have been a known voice in raising popular national issues. But, a number of ground level issues of Vadgam constituency have remained unresolved. And that could go against Mevani in upcoming elections.”

“Also, Vadgam is a Congress bastion with a substantial number of Muslim voters. If the AIMIM fields a candidate from Vadgam and the Muslim votes are divided, the BJP will gain from it,” he added.

But while Vaghela’s induction can help the BJP in Vadgam, pointed out another expert, “Mevani’s arrest can create public sympathy for him and it may work in his favour.”

Head of Cong professional unit, sulking Kailash Gadhvi joins AAP

In yet another blow to the Congress in Gujarat, its former spokesperson and state president of the All-India Professionals’ Congress (AIPC) Kailash Gadhvi joined Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Sunday. The 52-year-old chartered accountant criticizing the Congress for “not having any vision”.

In a formal ceremony conducted at the AAP state office in Ahmedabad, Gadhvi, who was a Congress worker since 2007, switched allegiance in the presence of 300 of his supporters — CAs, bankers, and marketing professionals, and small and medium entrepreneurs, among others .

Gadhvi had resigned from Gujarat Congress in October 2020, unhappy with being denied a ticket for by-election to the Abdasa seat in Kutch.

Gadhvi had met Delhi Chief Minister and AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal in New Delhi on Saturday.

“The ideology of the Congress is still strong, however it’s a party without any vision. Its leadership is in crisis and they have a problem in decision making. It is said in the business world that one should always make the right decisions at the right time. That seems to be lacking in the party. Even if there are issues in the party, the state committee never takes it to the Delhi High Command. They first indulge in groupism and then proceed,” Gadhvi told The Indian Express.

A chartered accountant and OBC leader, Gadhvi is a partner at one of the top CA firms of India, VK Jindal & Co, that has its base in six states. Born in Kutch, he did his schooling in Hazaribagh, Jharkhand, and completed his CA in Kolkata – and is, therefore, known to have connections across India.

“We have branches from Ahmedabad in the West to Bhagalpur and Kolkata in the East. I have been a CA for the past 22 years and under the leadership of PM Manmohan Singh, I joined Congress to be part of its CA Cell. No other party had then conceptualized having a unit of CAs in their working structure,” said Gadhvi.

Gadhvi was appointed president of AIPC Gujarat in 2018. Before that, he was the Gujarat Congress spokesperson and chairman of its Chartered Accountant (CA) Cell. In October 2020, Gadhvi had submitted his resignation to the party, unhappy with the manner in which he was treated over ticket selection in by-polls for Abdas Assembly seat.

By-elections to the seat were held along with seven other constituencies across Gujarat in November 2020, after a number of Congress MLAs — including Abdasa MLA Pradyumansinh Jadeja — had resigned and switched allegiance to BJP. Later, the Congress had fielded Shantilal Sengani while BJP fielded Jadeja. Eventually, the latter won by a margin of over 36,000 votes.

“During the 2017 Gujarat assembly polls, I had worked day and night for the party. However, at the last minute, my ticket was cut for the Sabarmati constituency seat. Then in October 2020, the people of my area in Kutch registered their protest at Congress office in Ahmedabad after the party gave another candidate the ticket for Abdasa by-polls. After naming their candidate, the party later asked me if I wanted to fight polls from the seat. I refused,” Gadhvi said.

When asked about Gadhvi, Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee spokesperson Manish Doshi said, “During Abdasa bypolls, he had given his resignation from the party. He has not been with Congress since then.”

Gadhvi also said that he sees the AAP as an “alternative” to the BJP in the state. “In my opinion, AAP is a party that has terrific grassroots-level working. They know how to connect to people and their decision-making is superb. The people of Gujarat are tired of the arrogant BJP government but they don’t see an alternative in Congress. It is the truth,” he said.

Speaking to The Indian Express, senior AAP leader Isudan Gadhvi said, “Kailash has been a senior leader in the Congress party for several years taking up several roles. Apart from him being an influencer, strategist and man-management person, Kailash also has great connections with good people in the Congress. We are extremely hopeful that many other Congress leaders will come and join us after seeing Kailash Gadhvi.”


Leave a Comment