Within hours of senior Congress leader Kunvarji Bavaliya joining the BJP and being sworn-in as a minister in the Vijay Rupani cabinet on Tuesday, former Congress MLA Bholabhai Gohel, who had joined the BJP after the Rajya Sabha polls in August last year, rejoined the Congress. Gohel was re-inducted into the party by state Congress president Amit Chavda and Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Paresh Dhanani at a function held at state party headquarters in Gandhinagar.
The Congress also lost no time in announcing Gohel’s candidature for the Jasdan Assembly seat, which has fallen vacant after the incumbent MLA, Bavaliya, resigned from the House as well as the Congress.
The bye-election for the Jasdan seat will be held within six months, and it is very likely that Gohel will be pitted against his former mentor Bavaliya who will have to win the bypoll to continue as a minister.
Gohel, 42, who had won from Jasdan in 2012 on a Congress ticket, was once a trusted aide of Bavaliya. However, in August last year, Gohel was among the eight Congress MLAs who had voted against Ahmed Patel, their party’s candidate, in the Rajya Sabha polls.
In fact, it was Gohel and another Congress MLA Raghavji Patel who had shown their ballots to BJP election agents that led to the Election Commission invalidating their votes and helped Ahmed Patel to scrape with a slender margin. Bavaliya had then called Gohel a “traitor”.
After being suspended from the party, Gohel joined the ruling BJP just ahead of the Assembly elections. However, he was not given ticket by the BJP to contest in the Assembly elections.
Commenting on Gohel’s return to the Congress, Chavda said many other BJP leaders would walk on the same path ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. “Gohel had not accepted any major responsibility in the BJP after joining the party (a year ago). He re-joined the Congress as he wanted to come back to the party fold,” Chavda told reporters.
Gohel, who like Bavaliya, belongs to the OBC Koli community, entered politics by winning Jasdan taluka panchayat elections in 2000. He remained Jasdan taluka panchayat president till 2010. In 2012, he contested the Assembly elections on a Congress ticket from Jasdan seat and won. In the same election, Bavaliya lost from Botad.
While announcing Gohel’s candidature from Jasdan in the bypoll, Chavda said that he would win with a heavy margin. Bavaliya’s resignation from the party would not have any impact on the party’s electoral performance, Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi said.