Cong MP, BJP MLA: Jasdan Strongman Kunvarji Bavaliya and His Midas Touch
Bavaliya's popularity among the Koli community is such that he has been winning the Jasdan seat since 1995. The only time BJP had won a bypoll here was when 'Congress MLA Bavaliya' contested for Lok Sabha polls.
Even former CM Narendra Modi's popularity could not help BJP wrest Jasdan from Congress when Kunvarji Bavaliya was a grand old party legislator. (File photo)
Not only did Gujarat OBC strongman Kunvarji Bavaliya establish his supremacy over the Jasdan region of Saurashtra by winning the assembly bypoll with a convincing margin, it has reaffirmed success of the tactical move of the BJP leadership in strengthening its presence in Saurashtra ahead of the 2019 general election.
Five time Congress MLA from Jasdan, Bavaliya defeated his protege Avsar Nakiya of the Congress party by a margin of 19,797, when votes were counted on Sunday.
Statistically, the BJP now has reached the three-figure mark in the Gujarat assembly. The BJP ended up with a tally of 99 in the 2017 assembly election and this win takes its tally to 100. In a political masterstroke that was supervised directly by BJP President Amit Shah, Kunvarji Bavalaiya quit the Congress party earlier this year and was awarded a cabinet berth in the Vijay Rupani government within hours of his resignation, necessitating the bypoll.
Such has been 63-year-old Bavaliya’s popularity among the Koli community in rural Saurashtra that he has won the Jasdan seat continuously since 1995. The only time that the BJP had won was when a bypoll took place in 2009 after sitting Jasdan MLA Bavaliya was nominated as a candidate for the Lok Sabha polls by the Congress. He won the 2017 assembly election on a Congress ticket by a margin of 9,277 votes and on Sunday he more than doubled his victory margin, but this time on a BJP ticket. “This victory is a befitting reply to those who branded me a traitor when I joined the BJP. I have the peoples’ trust,” Bavaliya told the media after his win.
Chief minister Vijay Rupani joined Bavaliya in the victory procession at Jasdan town of Rajkot district on Sunday. Underlining the importance of the win and what it meant for the BJP, Rupani said: “This win shows that the BJP will win all the 26 Lok Sabha seats in the general election to be held a few months from now. The Congress tried to make farmer distress an issue in this election, but a win for the BJP shows the farmers are with the BJP.” The ruling party had lost 15 seats in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat in the 2017 state election and farmer distress was perceived to be the primary reason for this setback.
The Koli community-dominated Jasdan constituency had always remained elusive for the Bharatiya Janata Party. It could not wrest this seat from the Congress even when Narendra Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat.
The only time that the BJP had won this seat since 1995 was when a bypoll took place after Kunvarji Bavaliya resigned from this seat to contest the Lok Sabha poll from the Rajkot Rural seat on a Congress ticket in 2009. He had won the Lok Sabha seat. In the assembly elections, Bavaliya won the Jasdan seat on a Congress ticket five times — in 1995, 1998, 2002, 2007 and 2017.
To be fair, Congress candidate Avsar Nakiya did not measure up anywhere close to the stature of Bavaliya among the influential OBC Koli community. In his native Asalpur village, Nakiya garnered 514 votes as compared to 764 votes that Kunvarji Bavaliya got in his village.
Congress spokesperson Dr Manish Doshi said, “The BJP has had to rely on a Congressman to win the Jasdan assembly seat since it does not have a leader tall enough to win. The ruling party also misused official machinery and spent crores to win this election,” Doshi said.
Analysts point out that the result clearly indicates that Kunvarji won the seat on account of his own popularity and in that sense, the BJP winning him over earlier this year is a shot in the arm for the party. Making him a minister in the Rupani cabinet with the portfolios of water resources, animal husbandry and rural housing only enhances his stature as people of the Koli community get the feeling that their representative has a say in decisions of the government, feel political commentators.
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