The political future of five former Congress MLAs who switched over to the BJP will be decided and the latter’s strategy of strengthening the party by importing MLAs from the Opposition will be tested in the Assembly by-elections in Gujarat to be held on Tuesday.
Eight Congress MLAs had resigned as legislators in the run up to the Rajya Sabha elections in the state in June. Five of them — Pradyumansinh Jadeja (Abdasa constituency), Brijesh Merja (Mobri), JV Kakadiya (Dhari), Akshay Patel (Karjan) and Jitu Chaudhary (Kaprada), later on, defected to the BJP and are seeking to retain their seats by contesting the by-elections as BJP candidates.
The rest have either been suspended by Congress or have resigned from the party that is desperately trying to keep its remaining flock together to take on the ruling BJP.
In Abdasa, the Congress has given ticket to Dr Shantilal Senghani, a medical practitioner to challenge Pradyumansinh. In Morbi, it has given ticket to Jayantilal Patel, a Congress veteran who has lost five times, to take on Merja. In Dhari, former Union minister Manu Kotadiy’s son Suresh Kotadiya is in the race to retain the seat for the Congress even as Kakadiya is attempting to win it this time for the BJP.
In Limbdi, the seat vacated by Soma Ganda Patel of Congress, the BJP has fielded former minister Kiritsinh Rana, while the Congress has fielded Chetan Khachar.
In Gadhda, the seat vacated by Congress MLA Pravin Maru, the BJP has nominated former minister Atmaram Parmar, while the Congress has chosen Mohan Solanki, a builder from Bhavnagar who is contesting his maiden Assembly election. Both Rana and Parmar had lost the election to Soma Ganda Patel and Maru respectively in 2017.
In Karjan, the Congress has nominated Kiritsinh Jadeja to take on Akshay Patel, while in Kaprada, defector Chaudhary, who is a BJP candidate, is facing challenge from Babubhai Vartha of Congress. In Dangs, the seat vacated by Mangal Gavit of Congress who has since defected to the BP, the saffron party has given ticket to Vijay Patel, while Congress has nominated Suryakant Gavit, a Christian who has an MBA degree.
Incidentally, Mangal Gavit had defeated Vijay Patel in the previous two Assembly elections.
The resignations by the eight Congress MLAs had helped the BJP secure three out of four RS seats . The Congress had managed to salvage only one with Shaktisinh Gohil winning the seat as senior Congress leader Bharatsinh Solanki was defeated.
The Congress has made the defections a poll plank, terming the turncoats gaddars (traitors) who should be defeated. “Votes are meant to be donated, not sold. If gaddars win, gulami (slavery) will return. I appeal all to go vote en masse to save the Constitution, democracy and our Independence,” Paresh Dhanani, the Leader of Opposition in Gujarat Assembly, tweeted on the eve of polling day on Monday.
The BJP is trying to woo the voters by highlighting the abrogation of Article 370, Ram temple, surgical strike, agricultural marketing reforms, etc., and is seeking sought votes in name of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Gujarat BJP president CR Paatil said in a video,”These by-elections are for creating a bright future for generations to come… They are going to prove very important for the bright future of Gujarat and India. Our Prime Minister Narendra Modi, after leading Gujarat, is now leading India and has shown to the world what definition of comprehensive development is. CM Rupani has also taken a number of initiatives aimed at farmers, youth, women etc.”
In 2017, five of the seven Congress turncoats who contested Assembly polls on BJP tickets had lost. In the 2019 bypolls, Congress turncoats Alpesh Thakor and Dhaval Zala had lost, while Jawahar Chavda had managed to win.
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