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Five-time Gujarat Congress MLA Quits Party, Becomes BJP Minister Within Hours

After his anti-party comments over the past month, Kunvarji Bavaliya resigned as a Congress MLA from Jasdan and then turned up at the state BJP headquarters to join the party.

Meghdoot Sharon | CNN-News18

Updated:July 4, 2018, 10:50 AM IST

Ahmedabad: In its bid to strengthen the party’s position ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Bharatiya Janata Party has not only won over senior Congress leader Kunvarji Bavaliya, but has also given him a ministerial berth in the Vijay Rupani cabinet.

After his anti-party comments over the past month, Bavaliya resigned as a Congress MLA from Jasdan and then turned up at the state BJP headquarters to join the party.

That it was a pre-planned operation and timed to coincide with the return of Chief Minister Vijay Rupani on Tuesday from his Israel trip was evident.

Bavaliya took oath as a minister in the government within a few hours of joining the BJP.

An office on the first floor of Swarnim Sankool – I, the minister’s block in Gandhinagar, was also kept ready for him to occupy. So swift was Kunvarji Bavaliya’s switch over that he was a senior Congress leader and MLA on Tuesday morning and a minister in the BJP government by afternoon.

For BJP, the sole purpose of poaching Bavaliya appears to be the 2019 Lok Sabha election.

Bavaliya, a five-time MLA and one-time MP, is a strongman of the OBC community and belongs to the Koli Patel caste.

He belongs to the Saurashtra region where the BJP lost a significant number of seats in the 2017 assembly election. In addition, Bavaliya is also chairman of the state-wide umbrella organization of the Koli community.

Soon after the Gujarat assembly election results were out, Bavaliya had lobbied hard for the post of Leader of Opposition, but keeping in line with party chief Rahul Gandhi’s plans of infusing young leaders in the organization, Paresh Dhanani was given the post instead of senior Congress leader Bavaliya.

Minutes after wrapping a BJP scarf around Bavaliya’s shoulder, state BJP President Jitu Vaghani said, “Kunvarji Bavaliya will take oath as a minister later in the day. This is the beginning of BJP’s goal to retain all 26 Lok Sabha seats in Gujarat in the 2019 elections. The Congress is left without any effective leadership and that is the reason why senior leaders like Bavaliya are joining the party.”

GPCC President Amit Chavda said, “It is sad and unfortunate that a leader like Kunvarji Bavaliya quit the Congress just for a ministerial berth in the BJP government. He was elected five times as an MLA on a Congress ticket. He became an MP on a Congress ticket and his sister and daughter were also given tickets. We treated him as the face of the Baxi Panch in Gujarat. The Baxi Panch Samaj and people of Saurashtra will demand an answer from him.”

Chavda added that after he openly aired his disgruntlement a fortnight ago, Congress President Rahul Gandhi had also met Bavaliya.

“He spoke one thing during our meetings and exactly the opposite while speaking to the media. I believe talks between Bavaliya and the BJP have been going on for some time now. It was evident from the statements he had been making in the media recently,” Chavda said.

Paresh Dhanani added that there is no large-scale disgruntlement in the Congress party.

“BJP is offering posts to Congress leaders to switch over, but this strategy will not work for the party,” he said.

However, young leaders like Alpesh Thakore, who have gained prominence in the state organizational set up, said, “It is unfortunate that a senior leader like Bavaliya has quit and joined the BJP. The party will have to work out a strategy by which the both senior and youth leaders get adequate representation.”

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| Edited by: Sanchari Chatterjee
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