The panic within BJP ranks became evident in Gujarat when, with the blessings of the party’s central leadership, it engineered defections of Congress MLAs last week and made three of them ministers.
With Hardik Patel due to join Congress on Tuesday, March 12, at a rally which will be addressed by Priyanka Gandhi Vadra among others, BJP’s brazen attempt to embarrass the Congress has, however, boomeranged with the party getting trolled heavily on social media in Gujarat.
BJP inducted into the government Jawahar Chavda, a Congress MLA for five terms, less than 24 hours after he defected to the BJP. Along with Chavda, two other MLAs of BJP were made ministers of state. They are Yogesh Patel and Dharmendrasinh Jadeja.
The anti-defection Act, as on several occasions and in several states, is toothless and the Speaker of the Assembly can get away by not taking a decision till the next election!
The BJP’s design to persuade firebrand OBC youth leader Alpesh Thakore, however, received a setback with the latter declaring his resolve to remain with the Congress.
Thakore had joined the Congress on the eve of the last assembly elections in 2017 at a rally attended by party vice-president Rahul Gandhi (he had not been elevated as the party president then). His recent meetings with chief minister Vijay Rupani and state BJP president Jitendra Vaghani had triggered speculations of Thakore defecting from the Congress to BJP.
Following the recent spate of defections to the BJP, the Congress strength now stands reduced to 72 in the 182 member state assembly. Earlier Kunvarji Bavaliya had quit the Congress and was promptly appointed a minister even before being re-elected on a BJP ticket. Another Congress MLA from Unjha constituency in North Gujarat, Ashaben Patel quit the Congress last week.
Another Congress MLA from Talaja, Bhagwanbhai Barad was suspended post-haste by the Speaker earlier this week following his conviction by a lower court, although it had allowed him time to appeal against the order. The verdict has been stayed by a superior court and the Congress has sought the revocation of his suspension.
The ruling party also appears to have been moved to the quick by the prominence given to Gujarat in the first Congress list of 15 candidates for the coming Lok Sabha elections it announced March 7. Four of them are from Gujarat with the remaining eleven from UP.
The four names announced by Congress from Gujarat, include two reserved seats - Ahmedabad West (SC) and Chhota Udepur (ST) apart from Anand and Vadodara where the party has decided to field veteran Bharatsinh Solanki and Prashant Patel.
Barring Ahmedabad, all three seats are in Central Gujarat. While Bharatsinh, the son of former Gujarat Chief Minister and Congress heavyweight Madhavsinh Solanki had been Union Minister and Raju Parmar is a former member of Rajya Sabha, Prashant Patel a new name is being fielded from Vadodara and Ranjit Rathwa is the son of Mohansinh Rathwa a veteran tribal leader from Chhota Udepur who has been an MLA since 1972.