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GANDHINAGAR: Shankersinh Vaghela, who had quit the Congress earlier this year and floated a new outfit, today shared the stage with top BJP leaders at Vijay Rupani’s swearing-in ceremony here and was greeted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the event.

Vaghela, a former Gujarat chief minister, was invited by the BJP to attend the swearing-in ceremony and given a seat close to another former chief minister, Keshubhai Patel, on the dais, where many leaders of the saffron party, chief ministers of other BJP-ruled states and Union ministers were present.

Vaghela’s presence came as a surprise for many as the Jan Vikalp front, founded by the veteran leader, had fielded candidates against the saffron party from several seats in the just-concluded Assembly polls.

Modi approached the two former chief ministers and was engaged in a light conversation with them.  The prime minister kept holding Vaghela’s hand for quite some time after the handshake. While holding Vaghela’s hand, he also talked to Keshubhai.

In the mid-1990s, Vaghela’s rebellion as a BJP leader was responsible for Keshubhai’s ouster as the chief minister.

Keshubhai became the chief minister again in 1998, only to be replaced by Modi in 2001 by the party leadership.  While talking to reporters, Vaghela said there was nothing wrong in attending a BJP function.

“Chief Minister Vijay Rupani had called me. Pradipsinh (Jadeja) had come personally to my residence to invite me.  Since I was in the Congress earlier, I used to skip the BJP functions, despite being invited. Now, there is nothing wrong in attending these events,” he said.

When some reporters asked Vaghela what did Modi tell him in his ears, he said he would reveal it later.

“It was something in reference to what Modi had told me in the Assembly (in 2014). I will tell you some other day what was it,” the Kshatriya strongman said.  In 2014, after resigning as the Gujarat chief minister, Modi had whispered something to Vaghela in the Assembly.

Since Vaghela was the Leader of Opposition then, it had created a fair amount of buzz as everyone was curious to know what were Modi’s words to him.

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