Speculations are rife that the huge and well-oiled BJP electoral machine is likely to engulf several Congress MLAs just prior to Parliament elections due in few months. Bhupat Bhayani, who had won the prestigious Visavadar seat, which was once represented by the BJP patriarch and former Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel, took the plunge on 13th December and joined BJP. It would be pertinent to note that a video clip of Bhayani, in a hotel, purported to have arrived to meet a woman clandestinely, went viral recently.
Amid a lot of brouhaha over AAP undercurrent in the Gujarat assembly elections held in 2022, the BJP swept the elections with 156 seats, reducing the Congress tally to it’s lowest in three decades. AAP’s vigourous campaign, fought with popular TV anchor turned politician Isudan Gadhvi at the helm, tuned out to be a storm in a tea cup, winning only 5 seats.
The insatiable and highly professional BJP did not chose to sit on the laurels though. Soon after the results came out, three independent MLAs, Dhavalsinh Zala of Bayad, Dharmendrasinh Vaghela from Vaghodia and Mavjibhai Desai from Dhanera, did not waste much time in extending their support to the BJP in the 15th Gujarat assembly. Rumours were already doing rounds that at least three AAP MLAs, Umesh Makwana (Botad) and Sudhir Vaghani (Gariadhar) and Bhupat Bhayani (Visavadar) might join BJP.
BJP’s Gujarat President C R Paatil has time and again expressed his displeasure in the BJP workers’ meetings to not have won more seats despite winning 85% of the 182 seats in the assembly. With the level of target setting, the BJP will turn no stone unturned to repeat the performance of 26/26 that it achieved in 2019, in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections too.
While Congress won 77 seats in 2017 assembly elections, soon after the results were out, a steady stream of Congress MLAs joined the ruling party at regular intervals. In the 2019 by-elections for seven assembly seats, the BJP had fielded five candidates who were former Congress legislators. More importantly, stung by it’s relatively unsatisfactory performance by it’s own high standards in the tribal belt in 2017, BJP managed to rise it’s tally from 9 to 14 thanks to defections from Congress. The strategy worked and BJP won 24 seats out of the 27 seats in tribal areas in 2022 assembly elections.
In the run-up for the 2024 parliament elections, which is poised to catapult Narendra Modi into becoming a democratically elected Prime Minister of the most populous country in the world, for the third consecutive time, BJP is not likely to take any chances. There are already indications about one or more sitting Congress MLAs turning saffron in weeks to come. The numbers doing rounds about probable defections are between 1 to 12, most prominent name among them is of Khambhat MLA Chirag Patel.
In the battle of perception that politics in essence is, the Congress is losing badly. If further defections happen, the image of Congress as an outfit which is incapable of keeping it’s already vanishing flock together will be reinforced in public. While voices of morality of turn-coats disrespecting public’s verdict are raised randomly, public starts to question itself as to why not vote for a candidate from a party most likely to form the government directly instead of allowing someone else to trade the franchise.
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