The Aam Aadmi Party is poised to take control of its first ever taluka panchayat — that of Savli in Vadodara, the Lok Sabha constituency that elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi before he chose to keep Varanasi.
Eight members of the panchayat elected on BJP tickets, who then rebelled on grounds of alleged corruption in the organisation, formed a “Sardar Patel Group” and seized control of the panchayat, are now keen to become AAP members. In a panchayat of 17 members, these eight represent the single largest group; it elected a president and a vice-president two weeks ago.
“We have spoken to AAP Gujarat convener Sukhdev Patel expressing our desire to join the party,” said Jayesh Bakrola, one of the eight. Sukhdev Patel said, “The AAP will discuss the matter at a state committee meeting. We will convey our decision to the national committee for further consideration.”
The BJP played down what looks set to happen. “The AAP is nonexistent here, so their joining will have hardly any import,” district BJP president Satish Patel said.
The AAP, which launched its Gujarat wing after winning Delhi for the first time in 2013, has since expanded from 19 districts to a presence across the state. Its members include former BJP MLA Kanu Kalsaria and Gandhian leader Kishore Desai besides a number of academicians and RTI activists. It failed miserably in the Lok Sabha elections. It has participated in a number of agitations for farmers.
Satish Patel dismissed the rebels too: “The BJP decided to show these rebels the door when they refused to accept the party’s directive (for the panchayat president’s election). They have formed a new group but we don’t take them seriously; they existed because of the party and will disappear now that they have been expelled.”
The rebellion broke out after the taluka panchayat, originally of 25 members, was split into two, including Desar with eight members. This left the 17-member Savli body with 10 members of the BJP, six of the Congress, and an independent. Ahead of the elections of the panchayats’ new heads on January 31, BJP state president R C Faldu issued a whip to vote for Dhirendrasinh Rathod and Vilasben Rane as president and vice-president.
Rathod, the official presidential nominee, was himself among the rebels who refused to accept the whip. The eight members wrote to the taluka development officer that they were no longer with the BJP. They elected Rathod as vice president, giving the presidential post to Yashwant Bhalia, and took charge on February 2.
The reason they cite for wanting to join the AAP is that it is “a response to corruption in the BJP and other political parties”. The AAP’s performance in the Delhi elections triggered the move, they say. “The Congress is nonexistent and the objective of the AAP appeals to all members of the Sardar Patel Group. We believe politics should be free of corruption,” Bhalia said.