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'Porngate' exposes faction ridden Gujarat Congress

By Kishore Trivedi

Gujarat map
On 21st March 2012 the results of the by-election in Gujarat’s Mansa constituency started trickling in. By the 8th round of counting, it was fairly obvious that the Congress had snatched the seat from the BJP. But, this otherwise memorable day in the life of the Gujarat Congress was tainted by a shameful episode that unfolded in the premise of the Gujarat Vidhan Sabha, a few kilometers away from Mansa.

As senior Gujarat Minister Narottam Patel was replying to matters pertaining to the Gujarat Budget, one BJP MLA Shankar Chaudhary took out his iPad, which also drew fellow MLA Jethabhai Bharwad’s attention. This caught the eye of a journalist with Gujarat Samachar, Janak Purohit who ‘caught on camera’ these 2 MLAs. The rest of the story needs little mention hereafter…

Predictably, the incident of these 2 MLAs watching ‘porn’ in the Assembly rattled the media! But, the mood on the ground seemed very different from what newspapers and TV channels wanted us to believe. A number of links emerged that could perhaps give an answer as to why the sting was planned and why on 21st March 2012 only.

As it happens, Janak Purohit (the journalist in question) enjoys a more than cordial relation with senior Gujarat Congress leader Shankersinh Vaghela. Some reports say that he has also served as Vaghela’s PA in the past.

Purohit started with the BJP but later left the party in 1996 with Vaghela. The plot gets more interesting when it emerges that when Vaghela fought the Radhanpur by-election in 1997 after leaving the BJP, his nearest rival was Shankar Chaudhary, the same MLA supposedly watching ‘porn’.

Now bring the Mansa results into the picture and things get even more curious. The reports from the ground attribute the victory to Leader of the Opposition Shaktisinh Gohil and GPCC President Arjun Modhwadia.

This surely boosts their chances of political prominence in the eyes of the Congress High Command. So, would other leaders have resented this and attempted to seek help of journalists close to them to deflect news of Gohil’s and Modhwadia’s success?

The Gujarat Congress in any case is not the most united Congress unit in India, divided between 3 main factions. First comes the ‘Mul’ or indigenous faction consisting of ‘original’ Congressmen like Modhwadia and Gohil. Next comes the Janata faction owing its roots to Chimanbhai Patel’s clique that shifted to the Congress in 1990.

'Khajurias' form the last major faction that consist of the turncoats who switched from BJP to RJP to Congress following Shankersinh Vaghela. Besides these, Bharat Solanki, Tushar Chaudhary and Dinsha Patel retain minor clout in the state unit. Factionalism came to the fore in the just concluded Rajya Sabha tickets as well multiple claimants and factions led to status quo being maintained and Pravin Rashtrapal being re-nominated.

Thus, it could be that a disgruntled leader or a faction exploited their proximity with journalists so puncture this otherwise glorious day! It surely didn’t matter that the screening from too far and the premise of ‘porn’ was more speculative than credible creating panic was the aim.

In the interest of the Gujarat Congress, one hopes they don’t feel they have captured an entire state. This was only a by-election. And if after one by-election there is such intense factionalism what will happen if God forbid the Congress comes to power in Gujarat?

In contrast, the unity of Sadbhavana fasts and the pro-people Budget by the Gujarat Government were far more development oriented. And finally, the victory parade in Mansa became a metaphor but uncivil behavior by Congress workers displaying pathetic hooliganism. If Mansa was a trailer (as the GPCC suggests), I am not sure anybody would like to see the complete film…

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