Close on the heels of virtual coup in Gujarat Congress last week, BJP is eyeing on Rajya Sabha win by defeating Ahmed Patel – political adviser of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, but another ground reality for saffron party is that all is not well for them too. Modi’s tenure of 12 long years as the state chief minister has virtually turned Gujarat into a ‘model Hindu state’ where Congress secular politics has become almost redundant. The Gujarat congress party unit is suffering both from dearth of ideas and leaders of stature. It does not know how to reinvent itself. The BJP continues to survive in the vacuum.
It does not mean that all is well with BJP in Gujarat either. The Saffron party has been under severe stress since Modi shifted base to Delhi. Modi’s successor Anandi Ben Patel had to step down paving the way for Vijay Rupani as the new Chief Minister of Gujarat. He has no political base of himself except for BJP chief Amit Shah’s blessings.
Gujarat after Modi is suffering from a huge political vacuum. The result is growing mass churning against the ruling establishment. There has been massive peoples’ upsurge against the government in the last three years. Patidar Patels under Hardik Patel’s leadership have taken to streets in lakhs demanding reservation for the Patel community.
The OBCs under Alpesh Kumar’s leadership are also on the war path. Alpesh is basically a Khatriya who is listed as backward in Gujarat. Incidentally, Vaghela too comes from the same community. Alpesh seems to have replaced Vaghela as the OBC leader in Gujarat as he has led massive rallies of his community during the last two years.
Gujarat BJP has been claiming that at least 20 to 25 Congress MLAs will join it in the near future, including the three MLAs who resigned last week. The tally has also included the three legislators who joined BJP last week. While this may be music to the ears of the saffron leadership, at the lower rung, the mood is not upbeat, as party workers feel this ‘Aayaram, Gayaram’ trend will trample on their chances of getting tickets.
A BJP leader from Viramgam, on condition of anonymity, said, “I am disappointed with former MLA Dr Tejshree Patel joining the BJP. If the party offers her a ticket for the next polls, as part of any political deal she may have had before switching sides, it will be an injustice to me as well as other dedicated party workers. She had been cursing us during the past five years. During the Patel quota agitation, Tejashree instigated an angry crowd. We could have been lynched had we not managed to escape.” “We will not work for her in the next elections even if the party wants us to. In fact, we will work against her and ensure she loses. We have sacrificed our life for the party and it is time we were rewarded,” said the leader.
The BJP is working hard to ensure that the Congress’s Rajya Sabha candidate for the August 8 polls, Ahmed Patel, loses, so that it will kill his party’s morale, which will eventually benefit the saffron front to achieve its target of 150 seats in the Assembly polls.
A senior BJP leader said, “It is true that committed leaders of the party may be displeased with the recent developments as they would be expecting tickets this time.” He added, “That had happened in the bypolls to the Abdasa seat in 2014, after the Lok Sabha elections. Congress MLA Chhabil Patel defeated to BJP and contested against Congress’s Shaktisinh Gohil. This angered the local party organisation that worked against Patel and Gohil walked away with the seat.”
BJP spokesperson Bharat Pandya said, “BJP follows a democratic procedure for receiving representations from ticket aspirants. The party high command makes decision on the basis of state parliamentary board’s recommendations, which is on the basis of the representations received. That means, no one needs to worry.”
According to Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi, BJP leaders and workers both should take up their grievances with the topmost leaders, who are actually behind the conspiracy to effect defection. “We as a party are going to start a statewide campaign against MLAs who quit Congress. We would urge the people to vote against them as they betrayed them,” he said.
Abdul Hafiz Lakhani is a senior journalist based in Ahmedabad, Gujarat.