As high command ignores Gujarat, Congress factions lobby for state chief’s post

Ahmedabad: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was in Surat on Thursday for a defamation case hearing when all the senior Gujarat leaders were in attendance, greeting him. He was in Surat for a good four hours but except for a wry smile or two, some bored looks and a few words with a couple of them, there was little interaction; no meeting as partymen expected. He didn’t even wait for lunch, as he generally does on Gujarat tours.

This, when the crucial reorganisation of the State leadership has been in a limbo since 2017 and the Congress in Gujarat is plunging from one electoral debacle to another. The latest was the local body elections, where in Surat Municipal Corporation the party did not get a single seat and new entrant Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) walked into the Opposition space.

Ironically, the present state chief Amit Chavda and Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Paresh Dhanani have resigned from their posts thrice after three elections since 2017, and have remained caretaker leaders.

Between this, the Congress high command suddenly appointed Hardik Patel last year as working State president, even as Chavda continued as the president! This appointment without any related organisational changes created more heartburn with Patel himself complaining that he had no work.

In the meantime, at least two factions last week started discreetly pushing for their own candidates for the post of State president, bringing to the fore the groupism in Gujarat. In one meeting last Tuesday, one faction plumped for former union minister Bharatsinh Solanki and another for former state minister Naresh Rawal.

One group, driven by Jagdish Thakore and Ami Yagnik, has advocated Solanki as the GPCC president. Solanki himself has been lobbying hard and has even held meetings with NCP Gujarat chief Jayant Patel Boski and BTP leader Mahesh Vasava to re-establish alliances with them.

He intends to demonstrate to the leadership that he could hold all together and win back previous partners. Solanki also had a meeting with a select group of MLAs last week.

Seeing this, a worried section of senior state leaders have conveyed to the high command to name a new president and organisation with a state-level reach at the earliest. Party sources claim Sachin Pilot will be the Gujarat affairs incharge and Rajya Sabha member Shaktisinh Gohil the state president, but none of them is willing to take it.

Another meeting on Tuesday strongly favoured former state minister Naresh Rawal as the Gujarat president. While Rawal was also present here, the others were second rung leaders Gaurav Pandya, Bimal Shah and Sagar Raika.

Leaders like Himmatsinh Patel, Shailesh Parmar and Raju Parmar were not present at any of the meetings, but they are learnt to be in favour of Solanki.

All this came a little over a week after Paresh Dhanani hosted a luncheon meeting with all the State leaders to put up a united front and create a facade of unity.

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