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With Karnataka throwing up a fractured verdict, all eyes are on this former RSS man, who was Narendra Modi’s cabinet colleague in his home state and maintains a cordial relationship with him.
Vala, who had won seven successive elections from the Rajkot (2) assembly seat, vacated it to ensure a bypoll in January 2002 when Modi wanted to contest his first election from Gujarat. Vala, who was then a minister in the Keshubhai Patel cabinet, ensured a big win for Modi from the seat, a Patel stronghold. In the state assembly elections later that year, Modi moved to contest from the Maninagar seat and Vala went back to his seat.
Vala would have remained active in Gujarat’s politics for a longer period but for the fact he was seen to be a challenger to Anandiben Patel, who succeeded Modi as CM in 2014. Thanks to his equation with Modi, Vala held portfolios like finance, revenue, urban development, energy and petrochem as a minister in Gujarat prior to being made assembly speaker in 2012 – his last assignment before he was nominated Karnataka governor in 2014.
Even during some of the most heated debates in the assembly, Vala could lighten up the proceedings with his sense of humour. Known for his candour, he’d once proclaimed in the assembly that he was in the land and real estate business and that he was proud of it. He is rumoured to have expressed his desire to be moved to a Hindi-speaking state and was reportedly upset when Anandiben was made the governor of MP.
At the peak of the bitterlyfought 2002 Gujarat assembly campaign, a BJP worker approached Vala, who was contesting from Rajkot (2). “They (the opposition) are giving too many gaalis (abuses). It’s not good,” he complained. Vala smiled: “They are giving something, right? Not taking away anything from me.”
A Karadia Rajput (OBC), he flew down to Gujarat on the eve of the last assembly elections in December 2017 to apparently mollify his castemen who were upset with state BJP president Jitu Vaghani.
Vala started his politics with RSS and subsequently was one of the founders of Jan Sangh in Gujarat in 1971. He was associated with RSS for 57 years.
He was even jailed during the Emergency for 11 months. Hewas BJP’s first mayor of Rajkot. In those days, he used to fund BJP, which was not in power anywhere else in Gujarat. Vala, along with Keshubhai, is credited with making BJP a formidable force in Saurashtra, which was a Congress stronghold till the 1980s. He was first elected to Gujarat assembly in 1985 and became a minister in 1990 in the BJP-Janata Dal government. From 1990 to 2012, he remained a minister – except from 1996 to 1998 when Shankersinh Vaghela rebelled against BJP to form a government. He also served as president of Gujarat BJP for two terms, from 1996 to 1998 and 2005 to 2006. His relationship with the outgoing Congress government had been smooth, though at times he went by the rulebook and had returned some legislations.