The simmering anger in North Gujarat over the arrest of former Dudhsagar Dairy chairman Vipul Chaudhary in an alleged Rs 800 crore scam is set to snowball into a major agitation against the BJP with former chief minister Shankersinh Vaghela and former State Congress president Arjun Modhwadia having been issued court summons for October 6 in the case.
Vipul Chaudhary, a minister in the first BJP Government of 1995 had joined the Shankersinh Vaghela revolt that year and became the Minister of State of Home under Vaghela’s Rashtriya Janata Party government.
He had subsequently joined the BJP but was neither given an election ticket nor any post in the party while another North Gujarat leader and chairman of Banas Dairy Shankar Chaudhary was being propped up at his cost while Vipul is senior to him.
Instead of lying low, Vipul Chaudhary created his own grassroots organisation called Arbuda Sena named after Chaudhary Patel (also called Anjana Patel) community deity Maa Arbuda. The Sena has by now emerged as a force to reckon with in North Gujarat. Sources say the Chaudhary's in North Gujarat can influence results on as many as 34 seats.
Chaudhary was arrested on September 15, 2022, along with his CA, in a scam that took place between 2005 and 2016 when he was the chairman of the cash-rich Dudhsagar Dairy of Mehsana in North Gujarat.
With Shankersinh Vaghela coming out in Vipul Chaudhary’s support, North Gujarat would become an uphill task for the BJP in the December 2022 assembly elections. Vaghela is a strong OBC leader from the North Gujarat region. This would directly help the Congress party.
The Congress has already taken up cudgels on behalf of Vipul Chaudhary with the party directly accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi “of getting Chaudhary arrested” for the BJP’s “vested interests”.
Last week, the party’s national spokesperson Shaktisinh Gohil demanded to know, “You (Modi) were the chief minister when the scam was happening between 2005 and 2016, while the milk cooperatives come under the purview of the State Government. What was Narendra Modi doing then as the CM? He patted himself with zero corruption in his regime. How did a person close to him loot Rs 800 crore? Why arrest him in 2022?”
He claimed that “Vipul Chaudhary was pretty close to Modi when he was Gujarat’s chief minister. He used to organise and sponsor BJP functions. There are a number of videos and photographs of Modi with Chaudhary. He called Modi his ‘guru’.”
It is significant to note that Vaghela and former Gujarat Congress chief Arjun Modhwadia have convened a press conference on Tuesday to raise this issue and are likely to announce agitational programmes in the region.