Miffed with the party for being denied tickets in the coming Assembly polls, several BJP leaders in Gujarat either shifted base or filed their nominations as Independents.
In the constituency of Padra in Vadodara district, this could prove to be costly for the BJP and hamper its chances of wresting control of the seat from the Congress. After longtime party leader and former Padra MLA Dinesh Patel, popularly known as Dinu Mama, quit the party on November 17, 15 elected members of the area’s municipality resigned along with 11 taluka panchayat members. This effectively ended the BJP’s hold on power at the local level in the area, a development that the party admitted was “definitely a setback”.
In the panchayat elections in February 2021, the BJP found support from the Rashtriya Samaj Paksha (RSP) party. It won 15 out of the 28 seats in the taluka panchayat. An Independent joined the party shortly after, helping it reach the majority figure of 16. With all of its leaders resigning now, the ruling party has lost control of the body.
In the 28-member municipality, the BJP won 20 seats. Five RSP members also extended support to the ruling party. With 11 BJP members quitting, the BJP’s tally is now down to nine. They also claim to have the support of the RSP leaders.
Padra Municipality councillor Paresh Gandhi was among those who quit the civic body in support of the BJP rebel. “A total of 11 BJP councillors resigned this week in support of Dinu Mama … We have the support of five RSP councillors. After the Assembly polls, we will stake a claim as Independents to form a board. We have already been suspended by the party and we are fine with it. Dinu Mama has been our leader and the party has treated him unfairly by denying him a ticket,” he said.
A two-term MLA from the seat, Patel is contesting as an Independent and has been suspended by the BJP. He told The Indian Express, “I won as an Independent in 2007. I am returning to my roots. The people are with me. My supporters are firmly behind me. Once we win the constituency, they will form an Independent board in the taluka panchayat and municipality. The candidate chosen by the party this time is the one who worked against the party to have me defeated in 2017. There is no way I can compromise.”
Patel, who is also the chairperson of Baroda Diary, first won the election from Padra in 2007 as an Independent. He joined the BJP in 2012 and retained his seat after winning on a BJP ticket. He lost in 2017 by 20,000 votes to the Congress’s Jaspalsinh Thakor. He will now contest against Thakor and the BJP’s Chaitanyasinh Zala. The president of the Padra municipality is Mayursinh Zala, the brother of Chaitanyasinh.
Since September 2021, Patel had been having differences with other elected BJP MLAs of the Baroda Dairy board. Following a public spat with Savli legislator Ketan Inamdar over remuneration to milk producers, state BJP president CR Paatil stepped in to resolve differences between the two. The board then conceded the demands raised by Inamdar and his group of MLAs.
While district BJP leaders did not comment on the recent developments, Dinesh Thakkar, the media convenor of the BJP’s Vadodara district unit, said, “The party has suspended a total of 48 members from the Padra taluka unit … These include office bearers of the party as well as the elected representatives. Losing the taluka panchayat and the municipality is definitely a setback, but the party is firm that it will not entertain rebellion. There is a strong reason why the party suspended the leaders even after they resigned.”
Thakkar added, “The matter will now be referred to the development officer of the taluka, who will decide whether the rebels should be granted the status of a separate party to stake a claim in the respective local bodies or whether they should be disqualified… We cannot comment on what can happen in this issue.”
The BJP is also witnessing a similar rebellion in Waghodia, where six-term MLA Madhu Shrivastav has filed his nomination as an Independent. He has also taken along several members of the taluka unit of the party. In Savli, Inamdar is up against Congress candidate and former BJP leader Kuldeepsinh Raulji, the director of Baroda Dairy.