The mass suspension of rebels in Gujarat — the BJP’s stronghold for nearly three decades — has failed to contain the uprising a week ahead of the assembly election. On Wednesday, another leader resigned from the party. Bhanu Bhai Chauhan — BJP vice-president of Jamnagar district and a leader of the Other Backward Castes — is alleging that the party is ignoring the demands of the community.
So far, the BJP has penalised 19 MLAs. The list includes a six-time MLA and two former MLAs. All have got six-year suspensions from primary membership of the party.
The mass uprising started after the BJP refused tickets to nearly one-third of its MLAs.
While the party routinely evaluates its MLAs and gives tickets after performance evaluation, this time it is under pressure to find seats for multiple Congress leaders who have changed camp.
With the rebels filing nomination as Independents, the BJP candidates will face them in at least 10 per cent of the 182 seats.
Many of the rebels are contesting from their own constituency — areas they have dominated for several terms. In some sections of the party there is concern that this may lead to a further paring down of the party’s numbers.
Over the last years, the BJP numbers have been steadily shrinking. From 137 in 2002, the party is now down to 99 MLAs in the 182-member assembly.
For the party, this is a huge embarrassment, with Gujarat being the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home minister Amit Shah.
Many are complacent though. They argue that the entry of Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party and Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM will eat into the votes of the Congress, which had always been the principal opposition party in the state.
Even though Mr Kejriwal has pitched himself as the BJP’s chief rival, AAP had failed to open account in the last election, point out BJP leaders.
Those suspended over the last two days include Vaghodia MLA, Madhu Shrivastav, a strongman with a rap sheet that includes a case linked to the 2002 riots.
Besides, some key leaders of the party have resigned. Among them are former ministers Prabhatsinh Chauhan and Jaynarayan Vyas and several district-level office bearers. Mr Chauhan has joined the Congress. So has former Chief Minister Shankarsinh Vaghela’s son and former MLA, Mahendrasinh Vaghela.
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