JAVAHAR CHAVDA’S switch to the BJP two days ago has surprised many, as the Manavadar MLA who was vice-president of the Congress was not among those rumoured to be warming up to the BJP. While it is believed that cooperative leader Dollar Kotecha played a key role in his defection, Chavda says his family has had good relations with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and that his late father, in fact, wanted to cross over to the BJP a decade ago but for protests by Chavda himself.
“My father (Pethalji Chavda) had very good relations with Narendrabhai. Narendrabhai visited our home many times and my father arranged a grand reception for him in Junagadh,” Chavda told The Indian Express on Sunday. “He wanted to join the BJP but I refused and contested the 2007 Assembly election as a Congress candidate. After that, he said we cannot walk two different paths and therefore quit politics.”
Javahar Chavda, who hails from the Ahir OBC community, quit the Congress on Friday and resigned as Congress MLA from Manavadar constituency. The same day, he joined the BJP. On Saturday, he was sworn in as a cabinet minister and on Sunday he was allotted the portfolios of tourism and fisheries.
The late Pethalji was an educationist and Congress leader. He contested the Lok Sabha election from Porbandar in 1996 and Junagadh in 1999. He lost both times to BJP candidates Gordhan Javiya and Bhavna Chikhaliya. However, Javahar Chavda, now 55, won the Assembly election in 1990, 2007, 2012 and 2017 as a Congress candidate.
Sources confirmed that Pethalji had begun warming up to the BJP after Modi became chief minister of Gujarat in 2001. At the time, Modi attended an event at an educational campus run by Pethalji in 2006-07, and also later on when Javahar was a Congress MLA. Pethalji also publicly felicitated Parsottam Rupala when the latter was president of Gujarat state unit of the BJP. There was even speculation that he might join the BJP. However, Pethalji, who passed away in 2013, never joined the party formally.
Avoiding criticism of his erstwhile party or its leaders, Javahar said, “It is important to treat subjects respectfully and maintain the dignity of people…Some issues are best left alone. There is no point in painting someone (as) large and the other (as a) dwarf.”
Many Congress sources suggest that Dollar Kotecha, an influential director of Junagadh Commercial Cooperative Bank and director of Gujarat State Cooperative Bank (GSCB) where BJP national president Amit Shah is also a fellow director, persuaded Javahar to cross over to the ruling party. Kotecha is a close friend of Javahar and both have served on the board of GSCB too. Around a decade ago, when Javahar represented Junagadh District Cooperative Bank, Kotecha represented commercial cooperative banks of the state.
Asked by The Indian Express if he persuaded Javahar to join the BJP, Kotecha did not comment.
Meanwhile, sources say that two others facilitated Chavda’s entry into the BJP. They are former Congress leader Kunvarji Bavaliya, who defected to the BJP in July last year and is a Cabinet minister now, and Civil Supplies Minister Jayesh Radadiya.
“Vitthal Radadiya (Jayesh’s father) is ailing and is unlikely to seek re-election from Porbandar seat this time. Instead, Jayesh Radadiya wants his younger brother Lalit to contest from there, and for that he needs support in Manavadar Assembly constituency where Chavda holds sway,” said a source.