Rebel Gujarat Congress MLAs to join BJP

In a development that could come as a shot in the arm for the BJP in poll-bound Gujarat, rebel Congress MLAs, who had either resigned or voted against the party nominee Ahmed Patel in the Rajya Sabha polls, are set to join the ruling party in the coming days. Among the MLAs, who will switch their loyalty, is Mahendrasinh Vaghela, son of veteran politician and Kshatriya strongman, Shankersinh Vaghela, who resigned as the Congress MLA recently after being expelled from the party for cross voting.

According to Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, MLAs from Jamnagar — Raghavji Patel and Dharmendrasinh Jadeja –would join the saffron party along with a large number of supporters at a function to be held in Jamnagar on Wednesday. Besides Patel and Jadeja, other rebel MLAs will also join the BJP in the coming days, he said.

As many as 14 Congress MLAs resigned from the party ahead of and after the August 8 Rajya Sabha polls. While senior Vaghela has not yet opened his cards, three of the rebels -Balwantsinh Rajput, Tejashreeben Patel, and Prahlad Patel -have already joined the BJP. The remaining 10 legislators are now expected to cross over to the saffron party. “Instead of calling them supporters of Vaghela (Shankersinh), I would say that the Congress MLAs who had given their votes to BJP candidate Balwantsinh Rajput (in the RS poll), will be joining the BJP in coming days,” Rupani told reporters in Rajkot.

“In the days to come, we will organise similar programmes in different parts of the state to induct remaining MLAs into the BJP,” the chief minister said. While six MLAs of the Congress had resigned ahead of the Rajya Sabha elections, eight MLAs, including the Vaghelas, quit after they were expelled by the party.

The remaining 10 MLAs, excluding Vaghela, would follow the suit soon. These MLAs are: Mansinh Chauhan, Chhanabhai Chaudhary Ramsinh Parmar, Mahendrasinh, son of Vaghela, Raghavji Patel, Bholabhai Gohel, Amit Chaudharuy, C K Raulji, Dharmendrasinh Jadeja and Karmashi Patel.

On August 27, Parmar and Chauhan will join the BJP at a function in Dakor in Kheda district. “Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and the Gujarat unit BJP president would remain present at the function,” Parmar told reporters today.

Meanwhile, Mahendrasinh Vaghela, who used to represent Bayad seat in Arvalli district, today paid a courtesy visit to the local BJP office. “Since I have decided to join the BJP, I came here to meet the local party leaders to build a rapport ahead of my formal induction,” he told reporters in Bayad.

Ahmed Patel won the close contest amid cross-voting by the rebel Congress MLAs, including the Vaghela father-son duo, defeating the BJP’s Balwantsinh Rajput. In 182-member House, whose effective strength is reduced to 168 following resignation of the 14 MLAs, the BJP has 122 members, the Congress 43, the NCP 2, and JD(U) one. Assembly elections are due in the state later this year.

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