The Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) founded by former chief minister and Modi bete noire Keshubhai Patel, and recently headed by former BJP minister Gordhan Zadaphia, will merge with the BJP ahead of the Lok Sabha polls to add leverage to the saffron party and assure a future for the year-old GPP.
Nearly 12 years ago, the last anti-BJP rebel outfit headed by Shankersinh Vaghela merged with the Congress. Vaghela, a senior BJP leader, had walked out of it with his supporters over the issue of appointment of CM and formed his own government in October 1996 with the support of Congress and some independent MLAs. But the Congress toppled his government in less than a year. The poor performance of his party in the 1998 Assembly polls forced Vaghela to join Congress in 2002, ending the emergence of a ‘third force’ in state’s politics.
People in the state hoped to get a strong ‘third force’ when Zadaphia quit BJP on the eve of 2007 Assembly elections and floated the Mahagujarat Janata Party(MJP) on September 25, 2008. MJP was subsequently rechristened GPP on August 6, 2012, when Keshubhai Patel formally parted ways with BJP.
In its first electoral battle in 2012 GPP won only two seats — Keshubhai from Visavdar and Nalin Kotadia from Dhari. Zadaphia, who was general secretary of the party then, also lost. Though Zadaphia continued to keep his party workers most of whom had come from BJP, the recent developments involving Keshubhai Patel’s son Bharat Patel joining BJP surprised everyone. Though Keshubhai himself did not join BJP, he resigned from GPP as president on grounds of ill-health and old age. This paved the way for Zadaphia to take over as party president.
These developments resulted in pressure being mounted from party workers on Zadaphia and Keshubhai to join some other party. At a meeting of the district presidents of the party on Thursday, Zadaphia was authorised to take a decision regarding merger of the outfit with any party he thought fit.
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When contacted, Zadaphia told The Indian Express that the party leadership had decided to merge with BJP. Asked if he had received feelers from BJP, he said, “We have received feelers from several parties but we will go with BJP because all our workers are from BJP and are acquainted with its political ideology.”
However, he said the timing and venue for the announcement of the merger were yet to be decided.
Asked about former chief minister Suresh Mehta, he said : “Sureshbhai may not join BJP again. He may be having some other plans.”
BJP sources said that the party was in a mood to welcome Zadaphia and his supporters in view of the challenges posed to it by Aam Aadmi Party. With the Chief Minister Narendra Modi declaring that he will settle for nothing less than a victory in all 26 Lok Sabha seats in the state, “every vote will be important and hence, merger of GPP will be in favour of the party,” said a BJP source on condition of anonymity.