Friday, 21 July 2017

 At about 2 pm today, the Congress' most senior leader in Gujarat, Shankarsinh Vaghela, is expected to serve new worry for it ahead of assembly elections at a public rally organised for his 77th birthday in Gandhinagar, billed as a show of strength.

 Sources close to the veteran politician said he is likely to announce his resignation from the Congress and as its leader in the state assembly, which could lead to a split in the state's main opposition party. 

 The Congress, sources said, has told 56 of its lawmakers to stay away from today's birthday celebrations. Mr Vaghela, who is the 57th, said this morning, "The party has full authority to advice workers, but workers are not the party's bonded labourers, they are free to decide what they want." 

On Monday, 11 Congress lawmakers in Gujarat voted for the ruling BJP-led National Democratic Alliance candidate Ram Nath Kovind in the presidential election, instead of opposition candidate Meira Kumar. 

 Mr Vagehla, who has since been flexing muscle and issuing veiled warnings to his party, has been isolated within the Congress. .

 Immediately, it could mean trouble for the party in the Rajya Sabha elections on August 8 for three seats in the state, one of which is held by Ahmed Patel. 

 The BJP has 121 seats in the 182-member Gujarat assembly. But the Congress could struggle to get its candidate back in the upper house of Parliament if its lawmakers cross vote again. Rajya Sabha members are elected by lawmakers if the state they represent.

 The state Congress chief said Mr Vaghela's birthday event was "just a social gathering" and "our wishes are with Mr Vaghela on his birthday," but did add, "if the event turns political and there is anti-party activity, we will see what course of action needs to be taken."

 At a meeting of supporters last month, he did, however, launch an attack on the Congress alleging that it was not moving in the right direction to take the BJP head-on for the forthcoming assembly elections.
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