Days ahead of the first phase of the Gujarat Assembly elections on December 1, former minister and veteran BJP leader Jay Narayan Vyas along with son Sameer Vyas joined the Congress on Monday, in the presence of Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot at Rajiv Gandhi Bhavan in Ahmedabad.
While joining the grand old party, Vyas who quit the BJP on November 5 saying he was tired of being in the role of a “complainant” in the saffron party despite his seniority, also said most of the work for the Narmada dam was done during the Congress regimes. Vyas was a minister with the Gujarat government between 2007 and 2012.
Thanking Kharge and Gehlot for his inclusion in the Congress, Vyas said, “All the irrigation schemes in Gujarat, including that of Narmada, were planned before the 1960s.”
He said the very narrative of the BJP that the foundation of the Narmada dam was laid by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru on April 5, 1962 is flawed. “The foundation stone that Panditji laid was for the Navagam dam, which was 240 feet high. The Khosla committee was asked to study it and he suggested a dam of 550 feet high. It was obvious that (parts of) Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh would get submerged and hence dispute happened,” said Vyas who is considered an expert on Narmada dam.
“I can say for sure that 75 per cent of the concrete work of the dam, including the foundation — there is more work done at foundation of the dam than on what you see above the ground — was done during the Congress regimes. The work started during the reign of Amarsinh Chaudhary and was carried on during the regimes of Sanat Mehta and Chimanbhai Patel,” he added.
Vyas also credited the construction of first modern roads in Gujarat to two chief engineers who worked under Congress leader Dinsha Patel.
Without naming any BJP leader, Vyas said he was saddened to leave the party that was his home for 32 years, but said there were two “banyan trees” in the saffron party that did not allow any other leader to grow.
“I was seeing that a banyan tree was getting bigger there and you know nothing grows under the banyan tree. One more banyan tree got added to the first one and so if you dismiss the entire cabinet nothing happens. If Gujarat is being run by such leaders, then I think it is not in the interest of the state,” he said.
Vyas’son Sameer said that he was the chairman of APMC Siddhpur from 2011 to 2016.
Describing the Gujarat Assembly elections as “important”, Kharge said the BJP was indulging in a misinformation campaign against the Congress. “The BJP has got a whiff that the people of Gujarat are siding with the Congress and so national leaders are roaming from one ward to another. The Prime Minister, (Union) Home Minister and several other ministers are giving inflammatory speeches while campaigning in Gujarat,” the Congress president added.
The Assembly elections in Gujarat will take place in two phases — on December 1 and 5, while the results will be out on December 8. Kharge also claimed that there were “invisible voters” in Gujarat who will vote for the party and make it victorious.
Vyas’s induction into the team is expected to benefit the Congress in the Sidhpur seat in Patan district where sitting party MLA Chandanji Thakor is in the fray.
On October 29, Vyas met Gehlot in Ahmedabad, creating a buzz in the political circles. The 75-year-old leader, who has held portfolios of Narmada and water resources, told The Indian Express then that he sought an appointment with Gehlot “about a month ago” to discuss Rajasthan’s success with the harnessing of Narmada waters and Covid-19 management.
In June 2021, when he was recuperating after a heart surgery, he tweeted saying he got a call from the BJP headquarters Kamalam to attend a meeting. Following this, he wrote, “…In past if u were slight unwell, senior most party bosses would ask about your health or drop in. I am in a hospital with bypass surgery the entire world knows except the Kamalam kid! Party has definitely changed!”
Vyas represented Sidhpur in 1998 and 2007. He lost polls from the same seat in 2002, 2012 and 2017. Having served with both Keshubhai Patel and Narendra Modi in Gujarat, he held the health portfolio and was also the chairman of Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited.