Updated: June 8, 2022 3:50:23 am
With the Gujarat Assembly elections getting closer, the ruling BJP has gone on an overdrive to induct its former leaders or those from the Opposition parties into its fold.
On June 4, the state BJP re-inducted an ex-party minister, Khumansinh Vansiya, to its fold. During his interaction with media persons after rejoining the party, Vansiya, a former Congress leader, created a stir by calling for lifting of the liquor ban in Gujarat. He said if the BJP promises to end the liquor prohibition in the state, it can win all 182 Assembly seats in the elections.
As his remarks sparked a row, Vansiya said it was his “personal opinion” and not that of the saffron party.
Significantly, Vansiya, who was a minister in the first Keshubhai Patel-led BJP government in Gujarat, has always been in favour of lifting prohibition in the state.
Subscriber Only Stories
Hailing from Asarma village in Surat’s Mangrol taluka, Vansiya, 67, had done his diploma in Mechanical Engineering from K J Polytechnic College in Bharuch. He had been with the BJP since its inception in 1980, when he was appointed as a secretary of the party’s Bharuch unit. He later went on to become the general secretary and the president of the district BJP.
Vansiya contested the Gujarat Assembly election for the first time in 1995 from the Vagra constituency as a BJP candidate and was inducted into the Keshubhai ministry as the deputy minister of forest and environment during 1995-1996. He later became the minister of state for the revenue department.
In 1997, when Shankersinh Vaghela raised a banner of revolt against Keshubhai, parted ways with the BJP and formed his splinter outfit, Rashtriya Janata Party (RJP), Vansiya defected to his camp. When Vaghela formed his government, he became the urban development minister.
Like Vaghela, Vansiya later joined the Congress party. Subsequently, he left the Congress and returned to the BJP. “In the 2017 (Assembly) elections, I contested as an Independent candidate from Jambusar seat in Bharuch…I was suspended by the (BJP) party president for contesting against the party candidate. Even while remaining under suspension, I have not worked against BJP. I felt I should rejoin BJP because while remaining in the party I would be more helpful for the poor and downtrodden people in my district.”
Speaking to The Indian Express, Vansiya owns up his remarks calling for ending prohibition, saying “I have given the statement and I will stick to it and it is my personal opinion.”
He, however, says, “I have never touched or tasted liquor in my life and nobody in my family is addicted to liquor. As a public leader, I have visited different villages and areas in my entire district, and have come to know that many women in villages became widow at young age and its main reason is that their husbands, working in agriculture fields and as daily wagers, get addicted to liquor and due to consumption of low-quality liquor they die at an early age, leaving behind their young widows and minor children.”
Vansiya says, “Under the banner of ‘Lok Hit Rakshak Samithi’, we carried out surveys in villages and talukas in Bharuch district in 2018 and found that over one lakh women became widows and their husbands died at young age. We also held Maha Sammelan in Bharuch district on December 30, 2018, where over 30,000 women participated.We imparted them information about various state and central government schemes on widow pension, children’s education, health issues etc.”
Justifying his pitch for revoking alcohol ban, he says: “Even as liquor is prohibited in Gujarat, the liquor manufacturers of neighboring states sell poor quality liquor in Gujarat. If the ban on prohibition is lifted, then standard quality liquor will be available in the Gujarat market. The villages in the coastal areas are mainly affected by low quality liquor and women become widows at an early age there.”
Vansiya’s statements drew fire from the Opposition parties, which went after the BJP. Gujarat Congress spokesman Manish Doshi said, “We really condemn Khumansinh Vansiya’s statements calling for removing prohibition in the state. We want to know whether the BJP has been winning the Assembly polls in this way. Crores of litres of liquor flow in Gujarat, the state of Gandhi and Sardar Patel, as the prohibition law remains only on paper. It is well-known how police protect bootleggers even as lives of youths are being destroyed due to liquor consumption.”
📣 Join our Telegram channel (The Indian Express) for the latest news and updates
- The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.