Former MPs Somabhai Patel (Soma Ganda) and Kunvarji Bavaliya, the two prominent Congress leaders from the Koli community, on Saturday quashed the reports about them joining BJP, terming those as rumours.
Soon after BJP announced its target of winning 150 out of total 182 Assembly seats in the state, there were talks about Patel and Bavaliya, who was also the four-time MLA from Rajkot, switching over to the saffron party.
Bavaliya blamed a “BJP leader of Botad” for spreading the rumour. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi is coming to Botad on April 17. Botad is dominated by our supporters and BJP leaders are apprehensive that they will not be able to gather a crowd. In order to gather people, a local BJP worker has done the mischief of circulating messages on social media suggesting I’m joining BJP. But as a matter of fact, I’m with Congress and will continue working for it,” Bavaliya told The Indian Express at his residence in Amrapur village.
State Congress president Bharatsinh Solanki said, “Kunvarjibhai is member of several committees of the party. He is very active. It is a rumour being spread by BJP.”
When contacted, Patel also denied that he was quitting Congress. “These all are rumours, which start spreading as elections near. I’m very much with the Congress and happy as a Congressman. I lost all interest in the BJP when it suspended me a few years ago despite having served that party for 45 years,” Patel said.
Bavaliya (61), a heavyweight in Jasdan and Vinchhiya talukas, was elected MLA from Jasdan constituency from 1995 to 2007. He had then helped Congress wrest Rajkot Lok Sabha seat away from the BJP in 2009. However, he failed to retain his Lok Sabha seat in 2014. Presently, he is president of Rajkot city unit of Congress.
While Bavaliya had lost the 2012 Assembly election from Botad, the party had staged a comeback of sorts in 2015 by winning Botad district panchayat.
Patel from Surendranagar, Purshottam Solanki from Bhavnagar and Bavaliya from Rajkot are seen as formidable leaders from the Koli community.