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Once Deemed Elixir Of Life, BJP Now A Deadpan For Many Congress Turncoats In Gujarat 

| Updated: March 31, 2024 12:08

As Gujarat prepares for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections on May 7, Congress turncoats gear up to contest the simultaneous Assembly bypolls as BJP candidates. 

In 2019, the BJP had fielded three turncoat MLAs in the bypolls and “rewarded” them with ministerial berths in the Vijay Rupani Cabinet while a couple more were elevated days after exiting the Congress. This time the party has fielded four Congress turncoats for bypolls in five constituencies. 

According to a senior BJP leader, around 60,000 Congressmen, including 20 MLAs and 300 leaders, have crossed over in the past few years. “This comes to around 250-300 workers per Assembly seat. They were key functionaries in their respective areas. The BJP leadership wants to decimate the Congress across the country and hence important leaders, who are ready to jump ship, are being pursued relentlessly,” the source added. 

However, only a few turncoats are in positions of power in the BJP. In the upcoming Lok Sabha fray, the BJP has fielded two candidates with a “Congress connection”. Its candidate for the Sabarkantha seat, Shobhana Baraiya is the wife of former Congress MLA Mahendra Baraiya while Chandu Shihora, who jumped ship from the Congress in 2017, is its candidate for the Surendranagar seat. 

In the run-up to the last Lok Sabha election, the Congress had a larger presence in the Assembly having won 77 of the 182 seats in the 2017 state elections. This time, the grand old party faces the parliamentary polls after having won only 17 seats, its lowest ever tally, in the 2022 Assembly elections and further being reduced to 13 following the exit of four legislators – Arjun Modhwadia (Porbandar), C J Chavda (Vijapur), Chirag Patel (Khambhat) and Arvind Ladani (Manavadar) – who will contest from their respective seats in the bypolls as BJP candidates. 

 The exodus of leaders from the Congress has prompted the BJP to set up a committee to “screen” those being inducted into the party to ensure “no harmful elements with malafide intentions join”. 

 The ball was set rolling in August 2017 by former chief minister and Congress veteran Shankersinh Vaghela, who quit the party just ahead of the Rajya Sabha polls. Then Congress chief whip Balvantsinh Rajput, who was nominated by the BJP as its candidate against Ahmed Patel even before he joined the party, MLAs Tejashree Patel and Prahlad Patel followed suit and three of them later joined the BJP. 

 Senior BJP leader and Rajya Sabha MP Narhari Amin, who himself had left the Congress in 2012, said: “The main issue in the Congress is groupism. If a candidate is selected, first he has to fight the internal groups and then the BJP. To add to this, Kshatriya groupism in Anand-Kheda has become so rampant that many loyal voters (from other communities) have distanced themselves from the party. Also, many leaders have to wait for as long as three months to meet the senior leadership.” 

 Amin said in contrast, people in the BJP provide opportunities to those who perform well and have a good number of followers. “Also, the BJP is a cadre-based party and hence there is no groupism here,” he said. 

 Some of the prominent Congress faces who have defected to the BJP over the years include Balvantsinh Rajput (Sidhpur), Kunvarji Bavaliya (Jasdan), Tejashree Patel (Viramgam), Ramsinh Parmar (Thasra), Jawahar Chavda (Manavadar), Jitu Chaudhary (Kaprada), Raghavji Patel (Jamnagar Rural), Amit Chaudhary (Mansa), C K Raulji (Godhra), Dharmendrasinh Jadeja alias Hakubha (Jamnagar North), Karamshi Makwana (Sanand), Pradhyumansinh Jadeja (Abadasa), Alpesh Thakor (Radhanpur), Dhavalsinh Zala (Bayad), Ashwin Kotwal (Khedbrahma), Asha Patel (Unjha), Mohansinh Rathva (Chhota Udepur), Bhagvan Barad (Talala), Akshay Patel (Karjan) and Pravin Maru (Gadhada). 

 Barring Rajput, Bavaliya and Raghavji, who are ministers in the current state government and hold key portfolios like industry, water resources and agriculture respectively, others have seen their prominence within the party wane over time. 

Hakubha, who was denied a ticket from Jamnagar (North) Assembly seat ahead of the 2022 polls, was recently appointed as the in-charge for the Amreli Lok Sabha seat. However, the BJP does not consider it as a party position. 

 On the other hand, Jawahar Chavda has been relegated in the party hierarchy and is no longer an elected representative or holds any party position. Similar is the case with former MLAs Harshad Ribadiya (Manavadar), Pravin Maru (Gadhada), Parshottam Sabariya (Dhrangadhdra) and Vallabh Dharaviya (Jamnagar Rural). 

 Amin claims the absence of Ahmed Patel, who passed away in 2020, has also made a negative impact on the Congress with many leaders feeling isolated with no one to address their grievances. 

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