By Yogesh Sharma
77-year young Shankarsinh Vaghela is now out on a statewide campaign tour for his new political baby, Janvikalp, in Gujarat. He has been visiting temple sand shrines, holding meetings with local leaders and interacting with media formally and informally since he started his campaign on September 21. Huge hoardings have come up all over Gujarat showing that people wanted him as an alternate( obviously as CM of Gujarat).
His new political venture after being associated with BJP and Congress in his 50-year long political career has added a new force in the politics of Gujarat which is due fort Assembly elections in December this year. Right from common man to political pundits are abuzz with questions political fate of Vaghela and his Janvikalp.
Despite differing views one thing is clear that he has made people think about third force in Gujarat. It is also an established fact that third front experiments have been short lived in Gujarat. This includes Rashtriya Janata Party (RJP), a break away party Vaghela had launched after historic revolt in the BJP in Gujarat in 1996. It was a vertical split in the ruling BJP something no one could imagine.
This time he has launched Janvikalp after engineering coup in Congress in which 14 sitting MLAs quit the party. Many more would have gone, but for the firefighting operations by Congress leadership. It put the Rajya Sabha membership of Ahmed Patel at stake as he was seeking re election to RS. Vaghela popularly called Bapu was leader of Opposition in the Assembly. The rebels included Vaghela and his son Mahendrasinh.
He has been scouting for right “likeminded” people who, according to him want to serve people and not to grab power. It is to be seen how he succeeds in his proclaimed mission. Presently, he is working solely on his charismatic personality and oratory skills. He reminds people of his days when he was Chief Minister of Gujarat in 1996 as leader of his RJP. It’s a very long period to encash today.
His supporters of that time either joined Congress with him or returned to BJP.MLAs who quit Congress with him this year have joined BJP. Only his son is with him. Earlier he used to say that Mahendrasinh was mature and would decide on his own. However, on September 24 he announced that his son would not join BJP.
Such an announcement was predictable. People were questioning rationale of Janvikalp of Vaghela when his own son was set to join BJP. However, many now have an impression that Vaghela was forcing his son to be with him. With all this, it is clear that Vaghela has to start afresh with heavy beggage of his 50-year long career in which he switched parties and conspired coups.
He claims that he is a clean politician with no lust for power while dubbing other politicians power hungry and power oriented. But his 1996 revolt in BJP and 2017 coup in Congress both belie his claim. Both were to become Chief Minister. For Congress Vaghela is B team of BJP. On the day he launched Janvikalp, Congress in-charge Gujarat Ashok Gehlot said that through Janvikalp BJP wanted to divide anti-BJP votes which were to come in the ballot box of Congress. This has put Vaghela in a denial mode.
Dharampal Chaudhary a confidant of Vaghela who is with him for last 30 year and is accompanying him on his statewide tour says that Vaghela is exposing government and so the charge of B team is wrong. Regarding Vaghela’s visits to temples he says this being Navratri time lots of people can be approached. Besides, he says, Hindus are not happy with BJP but will not vote for Congress. During talks they show their willingness to vote for him. Interestingly, some Brahmin leaders are also with Shankarsinh Vaghela in his campaign. Chaudhary says on the same ground Muslims are favouring Vaghela.
BJP is silent on Janvikalp. BJP is known to reel out reactions against Congress even without any provocation. This further supports B team theory of Congress. His supporter MLAs joining BJP and he himself getting grand welcome by none other than Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, Deputy CM Nitin Patel and other BJP leaders when he resigned as MLAs are other instances for B team theory.
When contacted BJP spokesperson Bharat Pandya said, “In democracy everyone is free to have his views and even political party and so Shankarsinhji. It is a known fact that people of Gujarat have never accepted third front and so the experiment of Janvikalp will not be successful”. “How could he be B team when he is attacking BJP government?, Pandya poses a question.
However, Congress spokesperson Jayrajsinh Parmar has quite penetrating views about Janvikalp and its association with BJP. He says that the sites on which Janvikalp has its hoarding basically BJP sites as before Janvikalp these sites had BJP ads. He says that Vaghela had said on record that Janvikalp was a small group of professionals from different field like IT. From where this new born and least known organization is getting funds, he asks.
What is more, he says, BJP government is creating all kind of hurdles in Congress programmes including that of its vice-president whose vehicle was attacked in July this year. But Vaghela has smooth sailing, he wonders.
There is an interesting view in political circles. Those who know Vaghela well think that he was not cut to play B team. He will ditch even BJP and emerge King Maker with 30-40 seats. But presently Janvikalp is in the domain of possibilities and speculations. Only December will open cards in Gujarat politics.