Gujarat Elections: BJP to contest with 14 Congress rebels
As BJP aims to win Gujarat's 182-member Assembly with over 150 seats, it has gone all out to ensure this. They have successfully wooed about 14 Congress rebels, who will fight on BJP's tickets. Apart from that, former Congress members Shankersinh Vaghela and his son Mahendrasinh, who have floated a new party, might join BJP. What do these desertions imply? Read on!
As Congress aims to build a social-political coalition, BJP is hoping that the former Congress MLAs will make efforts to retain their seats. They claim that these Congress MLAs will add their votes to BJP's kitty as "most of them have their own following."
The BJP is following the same formula as it did for the UP and Uttarakhand elections. Ahead of Uttarakhand polls, former CM Vijay Bahuguna had led Congress leaders to join BJP, after rebelling against the Harish Rawat government. BJP won 12 of 14 seats where it fielded Congress rebels. In UP, Congress chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi and BSP's Swami Maurya were high-profile defectors.
For the first time, BJP is contesting Gujarat without PM Narendra Modi at the helm. Moreover, BJP has angered Patels and Dalits in terms of dealing with reservation; further, it has dissatisfied farmers, traders and small businessmen due to its economic policies. In this scenario, 12 MLAs who have electoral power and "some head cooperative societies like Amul" leaving the Congress might benefit BJP.
The defection of senior leader Congress leader Shankersinh Vaghela in August had been a big blow to the party. A former CM of Gujarat, Vaghela had joined Congress two decades ago after quitting BJP. Congress was largely dependent on his support for a comeback in Gujarat. Along with Vaghela, losing MLAs who have the capacity to win votes might affect Congress adversely.
Meanwhile, Congress aims to build a large social-political coalition linking Patidars, Dalits and OBCs among others. It has been wooing JD(U)'s Sharad Yadav faction headed by Chhotubhai Vasava, who enjoys influence among Gujarat's tribals, Patidar leader Hardik Patel, Dalit activist Jignesh Mevani, OBC activist Alpesh Thakor and AAP leaders from Gujarat like Kanubhai Kalsariya. Thakor, who enjoys influence among backward classes, has joined Congress.
As Congress VP Rahul Gandhi visits Gujarat and meets potential allies, it is difficult to judge whether this approach will benefit Congress as Thakor, Mevani and Patel have not been tested electorally. It is uncertain whether their hold as community leaders will translate into votes.