Former Congress leader Shankersinh Vaghela joins Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party

Vaghela, in his long political career, has been a BJP rebel and Congress rebel.

Veteran Congress leader Shankersinh Vaghela, who left the party in 2017, has now joined the Nationalist Congress Party in the presence of party’s Supremo Sharad Pawar and its leader Praful Patel.

Vaghela was the senior leader of BJP and is a prominent OBC face from Gujarat. BJP had won a majority under his leadership in 1996, but the party had decided to make Keshubhai Patel as CM. This had promoted Vaghela to led a rebellion against party along with his 47 MLAs. Despite several rounds of negotiations, he resigned from BJP after he lost his Lok Sabha seat of Godhara in May 1996.

He later floated his own party named Rashtriya Janata Party and formed the government in Gujarat with help of Indian National Congress in 1996. He later joined INC and was made Union Minister in May 2004, after he won Lok Sabha elections in 1999 and 2004 from Kapadvanj. He was also selected as leader of the opposition for Gujarat assembly and also served as Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee head. 

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However, in 2017 things changed on the eve of Gujarat’s Rajya Sabha elections. Three seats of Rajya Sabha from Gujrat were going to the election, for which four candidates had filed nomination. From BJP, President Amit Shah, Union Minister Smriti Irani. From Congress, Ahmed Patel contested.

On 21st July 2017, on the occasion of Vaghela’s birth anniversary, he resigned from Congress claiming that he was sacked from the party. Following which, 3 Congress MLAs resigned from the party, and joined BJP. One of the MLAs to quit was Balwantsinh Rajput, then Chief Whip of Congress in Assembly and a close relative of Vaghela. Rajput was then made the third candidate for Rajya Sabha, along with Amit Shah and Smriti Irani. Very next day, 3 more Congress MLAs quit joining the BJP, bringing down the strength to 51 MLAs. Not only this, Vaghela himself and his son also voted against Congress. This had made chances of Ahmed Patel getting elected to Rajya Sabha, tougher.

Despite all this Ahmed Patel had won the elections. Balwathsinh, however, filed an election plea in High Court alleging Ahmed Patel of indulging in malpractices during elections.

After resigning from Congress, Vaghela founded a new party Jan Vikalp Morcha ahead of 2017 Gujarat Legislative Assembly election. As Election Commission did not approve his application for the new party, he fought under the banner of Jaipur-based  All India Hindustan Congress Party. However, his party lost deposits on all seats they contested.

Currently, NCP has one MLA in Gujarat and is electorally not very active in the state. Vaghela’s entry into NCP can lead to triangular contest in the state if Congress and NCP fail to reach a deal before the 2019 General elections. Currently, BJP has all the 26 Lok Sabha seats in the state.

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