Gujarat Bypoll: As Ahirs Seek to Reclaim Prestige, Karadiyas Will Fight for Representation in Talala
The BJP has fielded ex-minister Jashabhai Barad, Karadiya Rajput, in the bypoll, while the Congress is yet to announce its candidate for this seat in Gir-Somnath district.
Representative image. (Reuters)
Ahmedabad: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Sunday named former minister of state for water supply and Karadiya Rajput leader Jashabhai Barad as its candidate for the Talala assembly bypoll in Gir-Somnath district.
The byelection is scheduled to be held simultaneously with the Lok Sabha election on April 23.
The bypoll was necessitated after the Gujarat High Court refused to pass a stay order on the same and upheld the disqualification of Congress MLA Bhagabhai Barad in an illegal mining theft case.
Barad, who belongs to the Ahir community, moved the Supreme Court seeking dismissal of his suspension and a stay on the poll. However, on Monday, the apex court issued a notice to the Election Commission (EC) on Barad’s plea challenging his disqualification as a legislator and declaration of bypoll in Talala.
The court had earlier passed an order on Barad’s petition challenging his disqualification by Assembly Speaker Rajendra Trivedi and held him guilty of theft for illegally excavating limestone worth Rs 2.83 crore on government land in 1995.
Barad was disqualified on March 1 according to provisions of the Representation of the People Act after being sentenced to two years and nine months in jail.
His arrest sparked off widespread protests among members of the Ahir community who said they felt ‘harassed’ by the decision, further vowing to fight to reclaim their lost prestige on Gujarat’s political battlefield.
Hence, Talala, the hub of the famous Gir Kesar Mango, is set to witness a battle for honour for the Ahirs from the Congress camp on the one hand, and a fight of survival for the Karadiya Rajputs, represented by BJP’s Jashabhai Barad, on the other.
Jashabhai, a native of Suptrapada town in Gir-Somnath district is a Karadiya Rajput, an OBC community in Gujarat. He was made minister of state for water supply by the BJP government after he won the assembly bypoll from Somnath in 2014.
Before joining the BJP ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha election, the 66-year-old Karadiya leader had won the Somnath assembly seat on a Congress ticket in 1995, 2002 and in 2012 after which he switched sides.
However, in the assembly election of 2017, Jashabhai lost from Somnath to Congress’ Vimal Chudasama.
According to political observers, this bypoll is crucial for the Karadiya community in the state, as none of its candidate could secure a victory in the 2017 election.
Demographically, Kodinar in Gir-Somnath district is primarily dominated by the Karadiya Rajputs. However, it was converted into an SC reserved seat in the 2012 assembly poll, putting an end to future political space for the community from this seat.
Dinu Solanki, a Karadiya leader was elected as an MLA from Kodinar for three consecutive terms from 1998 to 2007 on a BJP ticket.
The OBC leader then became a BJP MP from Junagadh in the 2009 Lok Sabha election.
However, Solanki’s political preponderance abruptly ended since his name cropped up in the murder case of RTI activist Amit Jethwa in 2010.
In addition to this, another Karadiya leader, Vajubhai Vala, had to leave electoral politics in Gujarat after he was appointed as Karnataka Governor in 2014, leaving behind a vacuum of representation of the community in the Assembly.
The road ahead for Jashabhai is not going to be free of challenges. First, he will have to win the trust of his community members from Talala, as technically, he is an ‘outsider’.
Moreover, even though the seat has traditionally witnessed an electoral rivalry between the Karadiya Rajputs and Ahirs, Talala historically has been a stronghold of the Ahirs, with its Congress candidate winning the seat since 2007.
“Solanki and other Karadiya leaders have been pushing for Jashabhai’s candidature as the representative of their community. Moreover, Solanki has openly supported BJP’s Koli candidate and siting BJP MP Rajesh Chudasama for the Junagadh Lok Sabha seat. Hence, it is expected that Rajesh Chudasama would also ask his fellow Koli community members in Talala to vote for Barad,” a senior BJP leader told News18.
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