Narendra Modi’s Political Mentor May Join Him

Shankersinh Vaghela

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s once-upon-a-time political friend and mentor Shankersinh Vaghela may join the BJP in Gujarat. But there is a problem.

Shankersinh Vaghela

In another blow to the Congress, Shankersinh Vaghela, the current Opposition leader in Gujarat Assembly, is likely to join the BJP with a band of 36 MLAs.

That may sound a great news for the BJP as the Ghar Vapsi of Vaghela will bolster the prospects of the saffron party in the state assembly elections early next year.

But there is a problem. Vaghela will turn 77 in July and as per the BJP rules, any leader over 75 cannot contest elections or hold an influential position.

So, Vaghela cannot become the Chief Minister. The BJP is now contemplating making him the chairman of a central PSU while accommodating his son Mahendrasinh Vaghela in the state cabinet.

Mahendrasinh Vaghela

Sources say that the Gujarat BJP is keen to welcome back Shankersinh Vaghela after getting a nod from Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself.

Vaghela played a vital role in bringing BJP to power in Gujarat in 1995, along with Narendra Modi who was then an RSS envoy to the state BJP. He was instrumental in mentoring Modi for a few years and the two were close friends.

Despite bringing the BJP to power in Gujarat, Vaghela was not made the chief minister. Senior leader Keshubhai Patel was made the chief minister. It was then that Vaghela revolted against the BJP and formed a new party called the Rashtriya Janata Party. He became the CM in 1996 and continued till 1997 only to merge with Congress, later on.

Vaghela is upset with the Congress as the party did not give him absolute power to strategise Congress’ comeback to power in state after almost 22 years.

A senior Congress leader was quoted in the media as saying that “Vaghela wanted to play last bet of his life and sought a freehand, like Amarinder Singh in the recent Punjab polls, but the high command wasn’t convinced and feared possibility of split in the state unit if they acceded to Vaghela’s demand.”

It was then that Vaghela decided to part ways with the Congress along with over two dozen confidants. The break up came when he `unfollowed’ Rahul Gandhi on Twitter.

Vaghela shifting to the BJP can also deal a severe blow to Congress which currently has 57 MLAs in the Assembly. Out of these, 36 MLAs recently demanded the announcement of Shankersinh’s name as CM candidate of Gujarat. BJP cannot accommodate all the Vaghela supporters but those with influence can be absorbed.

The local media quoted an RSS leader privy to the matter as saying: “Bapu (Vaghela) is not as powerful as he used to be two decades ago but the core issue is his accommodation. BJP is not keen to give him ticket in the first place because later it may have to face the issue of giving him a suitable portfolio after the government formation, an awkward situation for both the BJP and Vaghela.”

Vaghela’s confidants are keen to join BJP. If Vaghela stays back, his position in Congress will weaken considerably.

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