The Gujarat Congress on Thursday evening issued a warning to veteran party leader Shankersinh Vaghela not to “play any politics” under the guise of his 77th birthday celebrations with his supporters and legislators on Friday.
He was also told that his public utterances would not be tolerated by the party any further.
Similar to an event in the Gandhinagar Town Hall last month, which was attended by scores of his supporters minus legislators, the July 21 event promises to be a veritable show of strength where MLAs of the Congress, two of Nationalist Congress Party and one of the Janata Dal-United have been invited.
Vaghela, who is the Leader of Opposition in the state assembly, had asserted last month: “If the party wishes to concede defeat even before the fight has begun, I would not commit suicide with it.”
The Congress high command seems to have finally decided to take a tough position on Shankersinh Vaghela.
A Senior party leader as well as former state president, Siddharth Patel, told reporters here that on June 24, he had called a meeting in Gandhinagar “where Vaghela spoke about the party in public, which he should not have”.
Patel said: “In view of his seniority, the party leadership kept quiet then. (Now) We wish him for his birthday, but any politics in the guise of birthday celebrations is not proper and not acceptable. The party will not tolerate this at all.”
Patel, who had just emerged from a meeting of the party’s coordination committee chaired by state Congress President Bharatsinh Solanki, said on July 18, all members of the coordination committee had appealed that it was crucial to put up a united front and try to resolve differences within the party forum and not in public.
After Vaghela announced his birthday celebrations on Tuesday, Patel and national spokesperson Shaktisinh Gohil met Vaghela at his residence to placate him as well as to convey him not to hold public events and embarrass the party.
The maverick Vaghela, who had snapped ties with the Bharatiya Janata Party in the late nineties to set up his own party that later merged with the Congress, has been asserting before the party high command to hand over reins of the December election battle to him.
Although publicly he has been denying that he wanted to be projected as the chief ministerial candidate, Vaghela said at the June 24 meeting and has often asserted before the media and his supporters publicly that there had been no planning for the elections and he had objections to the ad-hocism going on, taking a dig at Bharatsinh Solanki.