As Koli leader Kunvarji Bavaliya took oath as a Cabinet minister in the state BJP government on Tuesday, hours after quitting the Congress, the BJP’s lone Koli face till date — 56-year-old Parsottam Solanki — lay in a hospital bed in Mumbai due to renal complications. Parsottam, who is a Minister of State for Fisheries in the Vijay Rupani government, had been openly demanding a Cabinet berth for himself, citing his seniority.
His younger brother, Hira Solanki, who lost the last Assembly elections on a BJP ticket, said that Bavaliya’s induction notwithstanding, the demand of the Koli community from Bhavnagar of cabinet minister status to Parsottam is still pending. “As a BJP worker, we welcome the decision of the party to induct Bavaliya. It will double our strength. Pan Parsottambhai mate pan ame vichariye chhiye. Ame party ma kahishu ke temne mantripad aapyu chhey to Bhai ni pan-Parsottambhai Solankini pan magani chhe Cabinet mate (But we think that Parsottambhai should also be made a Cabinet minister. We shall tell the party now that he (Bavaliya) has been given a ministerial position, Parsottambhai’s demand for a cabinet berth is pending),” Hira told The Indian Express.
Hira, who had won election from Rajula seat in Amreli district for four consecutive times before losing his fifth bid in December last year, rejected the suggestion that Bavaliya’s entry into the BJP will affect their standing in the BJP. “We already are regarded leaders of our community and will do our job as such. Kunvarjibhai has joined today. He too is from our community and we welcome him. Party must have felt that inducting him could be beneficial. While I agree that health of Bhai (Parsottam Solanki ) is not permitting, but our community is huge and there are other MLAs also. We demand that two to three others should also be made ministers).”
Hira said that he and his elder brother were instrumental in BJP winning support of Kolis in Bhavnagar. “While my elder brother is facing health issues these days, the fact remains that he and I brought Kolis to the BJP fold. Earlier, they were with Congress. But we two brothers fought the Congress on behalf of the BJP,” he added.
Cong Koli MLA says Bavaliya’s resignation won’t affect party, but will harm community
Meanwhile, Congress MLA from Limdi, Soma Ganda Patel, another Koli leader, denied that Bavaliya’s exit would impact the Congress adversely . The 78-year-old who had defected to the BJP in 2002, but returned to the Congress soon after, said that Bavaliya quit the Congress for “selfish motives” and Congress will not be affected by it in any manner. “Didn’t the Congress make progress even after the assassination of Indira Gandhi? Didn’t Congress progress even after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi? If one priorities selfish goals, the community will never support him,” he said, adding that Bavaliya’s entry has already triggered a revolt within the BJP.
Asked if his stature in the Congress will rise after Bavaliya’s departure, Patel said, “My stature is already high in the Congress. It was even when he (Bavaliya) was there. I am committed to the Congress and therefore command high respect.”
He, however, added that Bavaliya’s departure would harm the community.
“People may stop trusting Koli community as a whole, saying they are selfish,” said Patel, adding that if Bavaliya wanted to join the BJP, he should have done so before the Assembly election. “But he did not do that. Instead, he contested as a Congress candidate and won the election. Then, he struck a deal with the BJP for a ministerial berth. But the community is observing all this. Ane Bhajap ma rahela manso pan vichar kare chhe ke aa direct ave chhey ane amare shun majira vagadvana? (People within the BJP are left wondering, that this man is coming in directly, so are we only the ones to play the cymbals (in a band- indicating they are on the sidelines).”