AROUND A year after they rebelled against Congress, 12 members of Rajkot district panchayat joined the BJP in the presence of Union Ministers Parshottam Rupala and Suresh Prabhu at a party event here on Tuesday.
The rebel group led by Nilesh Virani joined the BJP at the Vijay Sankalp Sammelan presided over by Rupala, Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare and Prabhu, the Union Commerce Minister.
“Congress is the party that sacrifices its members to protect the interests of a few,” Virani, who served as president of Rajkot district panchayat from 2015 to June last year, told The Indian Express. “During my tenure as president of Rajkot district panchayat, my condition was like the tongue caged by 32 teeth. Therefore, we 12 have decided to join forces with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and become members of the BJP.”
The 12 members include Virani (from Sardhar seat in Rajkot taluka,) Rekha Patoliya from Shivrajgadh seat in Gondal taluka, Bhanu Tarpada from Padadhari seat in Padadhari taluka, Kishor Padariya from Pedhla seat in Jetpur taluka, Natha Makwana from Kuvadva seat in Rajkot taluka, Magan Metaliya from Bhadla seat in Jasdan taluka, Rani Sorani from Anandpar seat in Rajkot taluka, Hetal Gohel from Atkot seat in Jasdan taluka, Hansa Bhojani from Shivrajpur in Jasdan taluka, Vaji Sakariya from Kamlapur in Jasdan taluka, Vali Talavadiya from Bhadli seat in Jasdan taluka and Chatur Rajapara from Vinchhiya taluka.
At the function, Virani accepted the BJP scarf, symbolising his joining the party. The eleven others also joined the BJP on Tuesday, but curiously it was the husbands of the women members that accepted the party scarf.
Rebellion broke out in the Congress-ruled panchayat body after Virani completed his two-and-a-half-year tenure as president and Congress proposed the name of Alpa Khatariya as his successor. The ruling Congress has 34 members in the 36-member general board of the district panchayat. Out of them, 19 rebelled against Alpa and her husband Arjun Khatariya, chairman of the executive committee of the panchayat body. Seven of them eventually toed the party line and cleared the way for Alpa’s election as president. But the 12 led by Virani remained estranged.
Hitesh Vora, president of Rajkot district unit of Congress said, “These 12 members have been rebelling for the last year. This is just a publicity stunt of the BJP. Congress enjoys full majority in Rajkot district panchayat even without their support.”