Former Gujarat CM and Congress leader Shankarsinh Vaghela to join NCP

Former Gujarat Chief Minister Shankarsinh Vaghela Friday confirmed he will soon join the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), starting a new political innings after stints in the Congress and the BJP.

Vaghela said he took the decision after discussion with NCP president Sharad Pawar and a formal announcement of him joining the party can be expected by Sunday from Mumbai.

“I have discussed this issue with Pawar Saheb. I think it is a good thing. In public life a good platform is required to raise issues of people and nobody should say no to such things,” he told reporters when asked about reports of him joining the NCP.

“We are likely to make an official announcement regarding this thing by Sunday from Mumbai,” said the former Congress leader.

On Thursday, Gujarat NCP chief Jayant Patel alias Boski had said Vaghela will join his party at a function in the presence of Pawar and another senior leader Praful Patel.

The function is likely to be held on January 29 in Ahmedabad, the NCP leader had said.

Vaghela’s entry into the NCP can lead to a three-way fight on a few Lok Sabha seats in Gujarat if the Congress fails to enter into a pre-poll alliance with Pawar’s party.

The state has 26 Lok Sabha seats and all of them were won by the BJP in the 2014 general elections.

Vaghela had left the Congress before the 2017 state assembly polls, after he and a few MLAs supporting him voted against Congress candidate for the Rajya Sabha, Ahmed Patel and backed BJP nominee Balwantsinh Rajput.

Vaghela, however, did not join the ruling BJP and put up independent candidates in the state assembly elections held in December 2017. All his candidates had lost polls.

Recently, Vaghela had toured various places, including Delhi, and declared that he will fight for removal of the BJP-led government at the Centre in 2019.

In 2017, the Congress and the NCP had fought assembly elections separately. The NCP was able to win just one seat in the 182-member assembly.

Vaghela (78) is a prominent OBC leader, who started his political career with the BJP.

After the BJP came to power in 1995 in Gujarat and chose to make Keshubhai Patel chief minister instead of him, Vaghela engineered a split in the saffron outfit and became the CM in 1996 with outside support of the Congress.

Later, he joined the Congress and served as Textile Minister in the Manmohan Singh government.

While in the Congress, he also served as its state unit president and Leader of Opposition in the Gujarat assembly.

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