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Gujarat govt totters past one-year mark

In a minority, with a chief minister on his way out, the Mahagujarat Janata Party government in Gujarat, led by Shankarsinh Vaghela, tottered past the one-year mark on Thursday. It faces a confidence vote next week if the Congress does not reaffirm support to the government.

The Congress withdrew support to the Vaghela ministry on October 20 and Governor Krishnapal Singh has asked the chief minister to prove his majority on October 28.

Now Vaghela is trying to find a replacement leader since the Congress said it was not averse to reviving support to the state government if the chief minister was changed, prominent contenders being Industry Minister Dilip Parikh and Finance Minister Babubhai Shah.

Meanwhile, Revenue Minister Atmaram Patel called on Governor Krishnapal Singh on Thursday morning. It was described as courtesy visit. Later, Patel said he would stake his claim for the chief minister's post at the MJP meeting later in the day.

Patel, however, said he would not revolt and would honour the decision of the majority. He claimed he had backing from most members. Vaghela, when told of Patel's meeting with Singh, brushed it off, saying it must have been a routine meeting.

Predicting an early mid-term election, Vaghela said the MJP was not entering into an alliance with the Congress for the next general election. Together, they could win 20 of the total 22 seats, he said. Asked about an alliance between the two parties in the assembly polls, he said that could be decided and discussed later.

Vaghela claimed the MJP had emerged as Gujarat's number one party because of its successful performance for a year. He ruled out the possibility of his rejoining the Bharatiya Janata Party though he lauded the leadership of senior BJP leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and deploring that Vajpayee had being sidelined by other BJP leaders.

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