There seems to be no end to the ‘poster-war’ for the faction-riven Congress in poll-bound Gujarat. The latest in the ongoing feud is a set of hoardings welcoming Congress’ Gujarat in-charge Ashok Gehlot for a three -day visit to the state in which the image of senior leader Shankersinh Vaghela is missing.
These hoardings, put up at several places in the city, display pictures of Gehlot and state Congress president Bharatsinh Solanki. Earlier this month, hoardings projecting Vaghela, the Leader of Opposition, as chief ministerial candidate appeared in Vadodara.
Vaghela, currently on vacation abroad, had then clarified that he was not in the race for the top post in the state, where assembly elections are due by the year-end.
Gehlot, however, sought to downplay the poster episode and asserted that there was no groupism in the party, which has been occupying the opposition benches in the BJP-ruled state for over two decades.
Speculation is rife that the anti-Vaghela faction in the state Congress may have put up these hoardings to indicate the sidelining of the 76-year-old former chief minister.
“Last time, Shankersinh Vaghela had informed the police about the posters (which came up in Vadodara). Such posters keep coming up, and if we keep worrying about them, how will we do more important works?” Gehlot told the media.
“(Vaghela) is our senior leader, our Opposition leader, and I am constantly in touch with him even when he is abroad, and will meet him when he comes here. We will also speak to him about news reports (that Vaghela is miffed with the party high command) that are appearing in the media,” he said.
The former Rajasthan chief minister said the Congress is working unitedly for elections, adding that the media blows up small matters out of proportion. He rejected suggestions that state party unit is riven with factions.
Gehlot arrived here today and met party leaders from state and district levels at the Circuit House.
Members of different communities, including Dalit and Koli, among others, also met him, a party source said. The ruling BJP latched on the latest posters to hit out at the Sonia Gandhi-led party. Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said Congress was moving towards “disaster.”
“It is their internal matter and I do not have much to say, but Congress is moving towards a big disaster and only God can save it…Whether Congress emerges winner or not, Vaghela is all set to go,” he said.
Vaghela fuelled speculation about his unhappiness with the party leadership after he recently “unfollowed” several Congress leaders, including vice-president Rahul Gandhi, and deleted anti-BJP posts.
This led to talks that he was distancing himself from the party and moving closer to the saffron camp. Vaghela, however, later clarified he was not leaving Congress. Before that, 36 Congress MLAs had asked the party high command to declare Vaghela as chief ministerial candidate. The Opposition party has 56 MLAs in the state. The Congress high command has already clarified that no CM face will be projected.