AHMEDABAD: In yet another jolt for the Rahul Gandhi-led Congress party in Gujarat, Mahendrasinh Vaghela, the former Congress legislator and son of political heavyweight Shankersinh Vaghela, formally joined the Bharatiya Janata Party on Saturday.
The announcement in this regard was made by Gujarat BJP chief Jitubhai Vaghani on the sidelines of the Youth Parliament function which is being organised at the Karnavati University in Gandhinagar. BJP chief Amit Shah will open the Youth Parliament later today.
The development took place nearly 48 hours after the BJP chief Amit Shah arrived in his home state Gujarat. Amit Shah, who has been credited for engineering these defections, landed in Ahmedabad on Thursday evening and performed the sacred ''Manglaa Arti'' to open the traditional Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath in early hours of Saturday.
Mahendrasinh Vaghela joining the saffron party is being seen as a shot in the arm of BJP and a huge setback for Rahul Gandhi-led Congress which had done exceptionally well in the last assembly elections held in Gujarat.
His father Shankersinh Vaghela, who had deserted the BJP and joined Congress in 2014, has always maintained a close relationship with the then Gujarat chief minister and now Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PM Modi had hailed him as a great son of Gujarat in his farewell speech in the Gujarat Assembly and the two even hugged each other.
Though the Congress failed to unseat the formidable BJP from power in the assembly polls, the party impressed with its performance during the electoral battle fought under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi.
Losing Mahendrasinh Vaghela is likely to make things difficult for the Congress party, which is hoping to expand its outreach and strengthen its base in Gujarat buoyed by the party's show in December 2017 elections.
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Vaghela had won from Bayad Assembly constituency in North Gujarat in 2012 and refrained for contesting again in the December 2017 elections.
In the past fortnight, Congress veteran and legislator Kunwarji Bavaliya and Rajkot strongman and former MLA Indraneel Rajyaguru resigned from the party.
Bavaliya not only joined the BJP but was immediately made a cabinet minister. And now it is Vaghela, who has followed suit.