Ahead of the Assembly elections, Gujarat BJP president Jitu Vaghani is facing the ire of the Karadiya Rajput community of Budhel village in his constituency of Bhavnagar (West). The Karadiya Rajputs with support from other Rajput communities are demanding Vaghani’s resignation as the state BJP president over the issue of a patch of pastoral land in the village. On Tuesday, Vaghani’s face was found to be blackened on a BJP hoarding in Rajkot — a party bastion — amid reports that he may not contest elections this time.
The Karadiya Rajputs have come together following filing of criminal cases against one of their leaders from Budhel village, Dansang Mori. The community alleges that the cases have been lodged at the instance of Vaghani.
Mori has been facing around four criminal cases which he alleges were registered after he objected to construction work on the village gauchar land allegedly under Vaghani’s directions. Mori was then the sarpanch of Budhel village.
The community had registered its loudest protest at Bavla village in Ahmedabad district on Sunday where thousands of Rajputs came together, sounding an ultimatum that if Vaghani did not resign as party president within 10 days, they would vote against the BJP.
At a press meet in Ahmedabad a day before the Bavla protest, Mori had alleged that Vaghani tried to take possession of the gauchar land in 2014. “I refused to pass a resolution to that effect and since then I became his target,” Mori had alleged, adding that the state BJP chief was instrumental in getting him suspended as sarpanch last year.
The community has also formed a committee led by community leader Kanbha Gohil to formulate its plans and also to hold possible talks with the Gujarat BJP.
Speaking with The Indian Express, Gohil said, “Our demands are clear — Vaghani must resign as Gujarat BJP president and the government withdraw false criminal cases registered against Mori and his family members. If this is not done, we can change the fate of 35 Assembly constituencies and we will decide on our choice on the night before the polling day. Our fight is not against a party, it is against an individual.”
Gohil added that following the community’s large public meeting in Bavla, some top BJP leaders have contacted him to resolve the issue. “I will talk with our community leaders before holding talks with BJP leaders,” he said.
Amid all this, unconfirmed reports have come up that Vaghani has expressed willingness not to contest the upcoming Assembly elections.
However, when contacted, Vaghani refuted the reports and said, “Our official spokesperson will give party’s official rejoinder to the reports shortly.”
On the Karadiya Rajput community’s aggressive stand against him , Vaghani said, “My party has already made its stand clear on the allegations levelled by them (the Karadiya Rajput community). I have nothing more to say.”
In a press release on Sunday, the Gujarat BJP unit had dubbed the allegations “baseless” and stated that Vaghani has nothing to do with the cases registered against Mori. On allegations related to gauchar land, BJP state vice-president and spokesperson I K Jadeja demanded authentic evidence in support of the allegations. “The issue is being politically tossed up at a time when elections are on the cards to achieve specific purpose,” Jadeja had said.
Budhel is part of Bhavnagar (West), the Assembly constituency of Vaghani (who is a Patidar). While the village is dominated by the Patidars, the constituency is dominated by the Kolis and the Patidars.
The issue, however, has apparently caught up the Rajputs in Suarashtra region. The community has been organising protests against Vaghani in various parts of the region for the last two weeks.
Rajkot, which is a stronghold of the BJP, has witnessed two protests in as many weeks against the state BJP chief. On Tuesday, Vaghani’s face in a hoarding at Astron Chowk in Rajkot was found to be blackened. The hoarding also featured photographs of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP national president Amit Shah and Chief Minister Vijay Rupani.
The area where the hoarding had been erected is part of Rajkot (West), the Assembly constituency of the Chief Minister. The incident was noticed hours before Shah visited the city.
Earlier, the Rajputs and Congress workers had held a demonstration against Vaghani at Jilla Panchayat Chowk on October 28, asking him to apologise to Mori.