Updated: February 10, 2021 7:21:16 am
The face-off between the Congress and the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) in Surat has escalated with two more Congress candidates withdrawing their nominations, leaving only one in fray on four seats of Ward 3, covering the Patidar-dominated areas of Varachha, Sarthana and Simada.
The one who was given the ticket — Surat convenor of PAAS, Dharmik Malaviya — did not file his nomination in protest, leading to lengthy meetings of leaders from the two camps since Monday that did not resolve the impasse. The PAAS has been irked over the Congress giving ticket to only one of the three names it proposed.
On Tuesday, the last day of filing nominations, Jyotiben Sojitra, sitting corporator of the Congress from Ward 3 and a Patidar, and Kanjibhai Bharwad, a non-Patidar, who had filed their nominations on Congress tickets, withdrew their candidature. General secretary of Congress Surat city unit, Jignesh Mewasa, resigned from the party in protest.
PAAS leaders Malaviya and Alpesh Katheriya had recommended the names of Vilasben Dhorajiya, wife of Sanjay Dhorajiya, who fights PAAS cases in Surat district court for Ward 3, and Vijay Panseriya, sitting corporator from Ward 16, which were not given.
Talking to the Indian Express former PAAS convenor and working president of the Gujarat Congress, Hardik Patel, said, “Alpesh Katheriya should initiate talks with Congress (leader of opposition) Paresh Dhanani and (state unit chief) Amit Chavda so that an amicable solution can be arrived at. If my party directs me to carry out talks with the PAAS team, I will definitely talk to Alpesh and Dharmik… We will also keep in mind that next time injustice is not done to them. As working president of Congress party, I will definitely come to Surat and hold meetings.”
“I have come to know about the issue of ticket distribution between PAAS and Congress in Surat. I learnt that Dharmik had demanded a ticket, and he had been taking up issues of the public over the past five years… The party considered him and gave him a ticket. Vilasben Dhorajiya’s husband advocate Sanjay Dhorajiya has been fighting PAAS cases in court for the past five years. I personally believe that Vilasben Dhorajiya should get a ticket,” Hardik added.
On February 7, Katheriya had appealed to the Patidar candidates of the Congress to withdraw their candidature if they want to be with PAAS.
On Tuesday afternoon, apparently acting on Katheriya’s call, Sojitra and Bharwad withdrew their forms. Now the Congress has only one candidate, Payal Bodhra, a Patidar fighting on Ward 3, where the other contestant is Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
The PAAS is bargaining with the Congress because in the 2015 elections, Congress is believed to have won more seats in the Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) because of the disgruntlement of the community with the BJP on account of the quota agitation by PAAS then led by Hardik Patel who is now working president of the Congress.
For the first time, 23 candidates of the Congress won in Patidar-dominated wards of Varachha, Kapodara, Puna West, Puna East, Sarthana and Mota Varachha, taking its strength in 116-councillor SMC to 36, where the BJP had 80 corporators.
The Congress and PAAS have since been working together with the latter becoming a force multiplier for the party. On January 26, the Congress and PAAS joined in a rally in support of the farmer’s agitation at the Delhi border and several were detained.
Talking to The Indian Express, Sojitra said, “Our political career in the Congress party started with PAAS… With the support of PAAS,we won the previous municipal elections. Congress’s internal politics has led to this issue… We acted on the call made by the PAAS convenor. We will never leave them as they come from our own community.”
Congress president Babubhai Rayka said, “We are working to solve the issue with PAAS…”
According to PAAS convenor Malaviya, “We have made call to the Patidar candidates who are in poll fray from the Congress to withdraw their forms. We are not forcing them but if they feel that Congress has done injustice to PAAS, then they can withdraw voluntarily.”
In the previous assembly elections, Mevasa fought against BJP candidate Veenu Moradia from Katargam seat on Congress ticket but lost.
Sources said that Mevasa had been associated with PAAS and had recommended names of few of his loyalists that was not taken into consideration by party leaders.
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