By Haresh Jhala
Gandhinagar, Nov 20 : In the last one and a half decades at least 50 Congress MLAs have quit the party to join the BJP in Gujarat. From the BJP’s point of view they joined the party because they were influenced by the road map of development adopted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi who was earlier chief minister of the state.
The Congress defence is that either they were lured with ministerial berths or were arm twisted or were bribed. The other defence is that the party has nothing to offer them as it has been in the opposition since 1995.
But political analysts see it as the result of the fear of losing Gujarat and a long term strategy to kill political opponent Congress with slow poison.
Senior journalist Manoj Karia recollects that the Gujarat Assembly’s sitting speaker Nimaben Acharya was the first to defect from the Congress and join the Bharatiya Janata Party in 2007. Since then 50 MLAs, and a number of leaders have joined the BJP. In the last five years (post the 2017 elections), 19 Congress MLAs have joined the BJP, because of which by-elections were held five times for 20 seats.
Out of the 19, 15 had quit the party before 2020, and in the by-elections 11 were re-elected, two lost the elections, and three were denied tickets by the BJP, he said.
Before the Rajya Sabha elections in 2017, some 14 MLAs had quit the Congress and 12 joined the BJP, but in the general elections the BJP did not give tickets to six turncoats. It gave tickets to four and they lost the elections. Shankersinh Vaghela never joined the BJP and his son Mahendrasinh had not joined the BJP before the general elections.
Political analyst Krushnakant Jha believes that the BJP has a fear of losing elections in the state since the last two assembly elections. It can’t afford to lose Gujarat, so it is luring the Congress’ sitting MLAs who have been winning on their seats for a long time. These are leaders who get elected on their own and not on party strength.
Jha said the BJP has built its empire in the country on the Gujarat model. The moment it loses Gujarat means the Gujarat model has failed in the home state, so the empire will collapse, so it is like do or die for the BJP in every election. That is why to overcome anti incumbency and keep the party in power, its leaders indulge in luring MLAs.
Attracting the Congress MLAs to the BJP and then fielding them on the BJP symbol is giving a surety of winning seats, which makes the state and national leaders’ task easier, feels Dilip Patel, a political analyst.
Patel questions if Prime Minister Narendra Modi really is a stalwart leader and influencer, then he would not need to get MLAs to switch sides; he looks a tall leader because of marketing and the euphoria created around him. The voting percentage in favour of the BJP has never increased. So to keep the party afloat, they are bringing Congress MLAs into the party fold.
Jha has observed one more fact — that the BJP has opened the gates more for non-Patel leaders from the Congress, be it Nimaben Acharya in 2007 or the latest Bhagadbhai Barad, Mohansinh Rathva or even Bhavesh Katara just on the eve of the 2022 elections.
Both analysts believe that it is done strategically at the time of elections, be it Rajya Sabha, Lok Sabha, or assembly elections. This is not only tarnishing the Congress’ image, but its credibility is taking a hit, so people have started losing trust in the Congress.