Former MP Radadiya dies at 61; lost powerful farmer leader: PM
Vitthal Radadiya (centre) comes out of Lajpore Central Jail after meeting Hardik Patel in Surat, Tuesday. Hanif Malek

FORMER BJP MP and and one of the tallest leaders in the state’s cooperative sector, Vitthal Radadiya passed away Monday after prolonged illness. He was 61.

“Glory to Lord Krishna! Prominent farmer leader for all of us, Vitthalbhai Radadiya passed away today, Monday, 29/072019. May the Thakorji bless his soul with peace,” Radadiya’s son Jayesh Radadiya, the State Food, Civil Supply and Consumer Affairs Minister, announced on his official Twitter handle.

Radadiya had been under observation at a bungalow in Bopal area of Ahmedabad for more than a year after he was discharged from hospital. Jayesh said that his body would be kept at Kanya Chhatralaya (girl’s hostel) in their native village Jamkandorana from 7 am to 12 pm on Tuesday. He further said that the funeral procession would start from their family home at Patel Chowk in Jamkandorana of Rajkot district at 1 pm Tuesday.

Son of a farmer, Radadiya entered the political scene by winning Jamkandorana taluka panchayat election and eventually becoming the president of the panchayat body in 1987. He won his maiden Assembly election from Dhoraji constituency in 1990 as a BJP candidate. He retained the seat till 2012 by winning total six elections. He sided with Shankersinh Vaghela when the latter rebelled against the then Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel in 1996 and also served as a minister in the state Cabinet between 1996 and 1998.

Such was Radadiya’s dominance and popularity in Dhoraji Assembly constituency that he changed parties thrice but he kept on winning from that seat and remained undefeated in all the six elections he contested from there. He was the lone winner from Saurashtra for Rashtriya Janata Party (RJP), the political outfit floated by Vaghela during the 1998 Assembly election. After Vaghela merged RJP with Congress, Radadiya too joined him.

However, his hold over Dhoraji Assembly seat as well as cooperative bodies like Rajkot District Cooperative Bank, Rajkot Agriculture Produce Market Committee and Rajkot District Cooperative Milk Producers’ Union Limited, popularly called Gopal Dairy, continued. He won the 2002, 2007 and 2012 Assembly elections from Dhoraji as a Congress candidate.

In between, he fought the Lok Sabha election from Porbandar in 2004 but lost to Haribhai Patel of the BJP. But Radadiya avenged his defeat by defeating Patel in the 2009 Lok Sabha election. However, weeks after his sixth consecutive victory from Dhoraji Assembly seat in 2012, Radadiya and his son Jayesh, who also won the Assembly election from Jetpur seat in 2012 as a Congress candidate, joined BJP. Radadiya resigned as MLA as well as MP. His son also resigned as Congress MLA.

In the subsequent bypoll in 2013, Radadiya retained the Porbandar Parliamentary seat, while Jayesh retained Jetpur Assembly constituency. In the 2014 Lok Sabha election, he won Porbandar constituency one more time as a BJP nominee. He was also elected vice-chairman of Indian Farmers Fertilizer Cooperative Limited (Iffco) in June 2017. He played an active role in mediation between Patidar quota stir leaders and the state government and had even met Patiar Anamat Andolan Samiti convenor Hardik Patel in Surat jail. However, his failing health forced him to withdraw from public life in late 2017.

Radadiya had hit headlines by flashing his gun at Karjan toll plaza on National Highway 8 near Vadodara and allegedly threatening staff just weeks before the 2012 Assembly election in the state.

In 2015, he and two others were booked for allegedly beating up a travel agent over a property dispute in Dhoraji. In all, around a dozen criminal cases were registered against him. But he had won praise from many quarters in 2014 when he arranged wedding of his daughter-in-law after his son Kalpesh died of a heart attack.

He had been battling a serious ailment for the past six years and had it treated even in the US. He is survived by his wife, sons Jayesh and Lalit, and his grandchildren. “Saddened to hear about the demise of former Porbandar MP Vitthalbhai Radadiya. Gujarat has lost a powerful farmer leader. He will always be remembered for his contribution in the field of cooperative, education, and political sphere. May God give strength to the family members to bear the loss,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted.

Chief Minister Vijay Rupani also paid tributes to the former MP. “Saddened by the demise of senior BJP leader Shri Vitthalbhai Radadiya. I express my deepest condolences to his family and friends. Om Shanti,” Chief Minister Vijay Rupani tweeted. Leader of Opposition in Gujarat Assembly, Paresh Dhanani also paid tribute to Radadiya and said his death was a big loss to farmers of the state. “In Vitthalbhai Radadiya’s death, farmers of Gujarat have lost their voice and Saurashtra a leader like a lion. I pray to god to afford his soul peace,” Dhanani said in his tribute post on social media.