Jittery Over Cong Seizing Its Territories, BJP Tries to Impede Rival's Growing Clout in Rural Gujarat
The political arithmetic has changed in Gujarat since 2017 assembly elections when Congress had won most of the rural seats. This has made BJP jittery, prompting it to launch 'Mission 26' to remain afloat in PM Modi's state.
File photo of PM Narendra Modi (left) and BJP chief Amit Shah.
Ahmedabad: Gujarat, the home state of PM Modi and BJP national chief Amit Shah, witnessed new fault lines in the state's political landscape after the 2017 assembly elections. While BJP remained strong in cities, rural areas aligned with the Congress, giving the grand old party a major boost in the run-up to Lok Sabha polls.
In fact, prime minister's native Vadnagar, which falls into Unja assembly seat, went to Congress in the assembly polls. BJP also lost Mansa assembly seat, the hometurf of BJP national president Amit Shah, to Congress.
Amid the 'Modi wave' in 2014 general elections, BJP won all the 26 Lok Sabha seats in Gujarat, which then began to be considered as saffron party's "laboratory". However, the situation has changed in the last five years.
According to political analysts, BJP has consolidated its position in urban constituencies but the saffron party remains 'vulnerable' in rural parts of the state.
The Modi-led party has since then left no stone unturned to change the trends. This became even more evident from the recent political developments wherein four Congress MLAs, from rural constituencies, especially Saurashtra region, joined BJP in the last one month.
Since February 3, Congress MLAs Jawahar Chavda (Manavadar), Parshottam Sabariya (Dhrangdhra), Vallabh Dharaviya (Jamnagar Rural) and Ashaben Patel (Unjha) have switched to BJP.
The party has launched ‘Mission 26’ and plans to retain all 26 Lok Sabha seats, which it had won in 2014 Polls. But political arithmetic has changed and the rural fault line continues to haunt it ahead of the 2019 polls.
To begin with, Manavadar Congress MLA Jawahar Chavda, an Ahir leader, was inducted into the Vijay Rupani government hours after he joined the BJP. The leader has been a four-time MLA from Manavadar constituency. Administratively, Manavadar falls under Junagadh district while electorally, it falls into Porbandar Lok Sabha seat.
BJP had lost all the seven assembly seats in 2017 Assembly polls that falls into Junagadh Lok Sabha seat. Out of the seven assembly seats in Porbandar Lok Sabha seat, BJP had won four seats while Congress had won two and NCP one.
Given this present scenario in rural areas of Junagadh and Porbandar Lok Sabha seats, Congress MLA and OBC leader Jawhar Chavda’s entry into BJP is significant.
In Amreli Lok Sabha seat, out of the seven assembly seats, BJP had won just two in 2017 state assembly polls while Congress had won remaining five assembly constituencies. Moreover, Ahir leader Kanubhai Kalsaria, a former three-time BJP MLA from Mahuva, has recently joined the Congress.
BJP had inducted veteran Congress leader and Jasdan legislator Kunvarji Bavaliya into the party in July last year. He had won Jasdan by-election on a BJP ticket and is now Cabinet minister in Rupani government. Jasdan seat falls into Rajkot Lok Sabha constituency.
In 2017 assembly polls, out of the seven assembly seats, Congress had won three seats (all rural seats), while BJP had won four seats-mostly all urban constituencies.
Bavaliya belongs to numerically powerful Koli (OBC) community in Saurashtra region and his entry will strength BJP’s rural outreach in 2019 Polls. Out of the seven Lok Sabha seats in Saurashtra region, three Lok Sabha seats are represented by Koli leaders.
Congress MLA Parshottam Sabariya, who joined BJP on Monday, also belongs to the same community. He is a legislator from Dhranghra seat, which falls under Surendranagar Lok Sabha seat.
His entry into BJP is significant given the fact that out of the seven assembly seats which falls under Surendranagar, Congress had won six assembly seats while BJP had won only one seat, that too in an urban area. Congress had won all six rural assembly seats in 2017 polls.
In fact, in the first week of February, Congress MLA Asha Patel from Unjha in Mehsana district also resigned from the grand old party and joined BJP. Her constituency falls under the same Unjha area, which also includes PM Modi's Vadnagar. In fact, Amit Shah's Mansa assembly seat was also won by Congress.
Both the seats are in Mehsana district, which is considered a BJP bastion. But in 2017 assembly polls, out of the seven seats, Congress had won three seats, while BJP had won four. The seat is even more important considering that it was once an epicenter of Hardik Patel’s Patidar quota stir.
Since 2012, as many as 34 Congress leaders, mostly MLAs and MPs, have switched sides from Congress to BJP and most of them were from rural assembly constituencies.
Political observers say that BJP is finding it tough to remain afloat in rural Gujarat and the only way it has is to damage Congress by poaching its leaders.
“With Samajvadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) joining hands in Uttar Pradesh and Congress forming government in Chattishgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, BJP does not want to take any chances in its traditional stronghold of Gujarat. It has chalked out plans to retain all 26 Lok Sabha seats and, therefore, the party has deployed its ‘best of the spin doctors’ to checkmate Congress," said a source in BJP.
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