Ahmedabad: The opposition Congress in Gujarat was put in a tight spot on Monday after one of its most senior leaders in the state, Shankersinh Vaghela, ruled himself out as a chief ministerial candidate in assembly elections due by the end of the year.
“I am in the race for winning the elections and am not in race for CM post,” Vaghela, who is the leader of opposition in the Gujarat assembly, posted on Twitter after the party held a meeting with ticket seekers for the assembly polls.
His decision comes at a time when the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), after its huge victory in Uttar Pradesh has declared a mission to win 150 seats in the 182-member Gujarat assembly.
A former union textile minister and ex-chief minister of Gujarat, Vaghela had stirred a controversy during the campaigning for state elections in 2012, when he declared himself as the “captain” of Gujarat Congress. BJP had been attacking Congress for lack of leadership and his response was seen in that context.
Vaghela was earlier in the BJP and played a crucial role in the party’s victory in Gujarat in 1995. After Keshubhai Patel was chosen over him as the CM, Vaghela rebelled and became CM in October 1996. He floated his own party, the Rashtriya Janata Party, which was later merged with the Congress.
The Gujarat assembly has 182 seats and the BJP has set itself a target of winning 150. Congress, under the leadership of the then CM Madhavsinh Solanki had in 1985, won in 149 assembly seats. The BJP currently holds 123 seats.
“Our slogan is UP mein 325, Gujarat mein 150 (325 seats in UP, 150 in Gujarat). We are not worried about winning for we are confident of achieving it. We want to bring a record number of seats this time,” said a BJP party official who did not wish to be named.
A big victory in Gujarat, which is the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP national president Amit Shah, will boost the party’s prospects for the next general elections in 2019.
The BJP government has suffered some serious setbacks recently in the state where Modi was chief minister for over 13 years. Since Modi left for Delhi, the state has seen separate agitations by upper caste Patels and Dalits.