Bharatiya Janata Party is again facing a crisis caused by rebels in the ongoing Gujarat assembly election. It has suspended 19 candidates who filed nominations – seven after the first phase of nomination, and 12 after the second phase of nomination for involving in “anti-party” activities. “These MLAs have been suspended for six years for having indulged in antiparty activities,” BJP state president C.R Patil said in a press release.
It was a response to BJP’s decision to not give 42 sitting MLAs, perhaps to contain anti-incumbency and ensure “winnability”. BJP did an internal survey, as they do before every election, and decided not to go ahead with those candidates who fail to meet the criteria Some of those candidates who turned rebel have entered the fray as independent candidates. Not just that disgruntled party workers reportedly registered their protests in the respective party office. It may cause damage to the party in these constituencies.
This was a re-emergence of the crisis that the BJP faced in Himachal Pradesh. Where party found itself in serious trouble when around 30 rebels were contesting against official BJP candidates out of the 68 seats. Party was grasping at straws to convince these candidates but made no strides. The alleged viral phone call of one of the rebels Kripal Parmar with the Prime Minister in which the PM was trying to persuade him, shows, how the dissent and rebellion cornered the party and forced it to do serious reckoning.
Incidentally, several senior party leaders are trying to placate the negative effects of the rebellion in Gujarat. BJP is making constituency-specific plans, as the socio-economic profile and caste dynamics play a crucial role in each constituency.
One of the seats where the BJP is facing serious challenges is Padra in Vadodara. Here BJP gave the ticket to Chaitanya Singh, who has been a long-time opponent of the stalwart leader of the Padra Dinesh Patel, aka Dinu Mama. Two-time MLA, Patel’s hat trick was stopped by Congress’s Thakor Jashpalsinh Mahendrasinh in 2017 when he defeated him in a tight fight. Given the anti-incumbency against congress in the constituency and his support base, Patel was hoping to get a ticket. But the party was thinking differently.
Moreover, Singh’s candidature from the BJP made him more upset. Thus he rebelled and filed for nomination as an independent candidate. Several BJP leaders tried convincing him, reportedly even State Home Minister Harsh Sanghvi himself went to Vadodara to speak with him, but he did not agree and went ahead with his nomination.
Another important seat, where BJP is facing challenges due to rebellion, is Vaghodia in Vadodara. Madhu Srivastav, a six-time MLA from Vaghodia, first resigned from BJP and then filed a nomination to contest as an independent candidate.
Srivastav became an MLA for the first time in 1995 fighting as an independent candidate. After that since 1998, he has been BJP’s secure bet. Thus his candidature may inflict serious damage on BJP, as he has a strong support base in the constituency. On a brief phone call, Srivastav said that he is contesting for the people of his constituency, “my supporters want me to contest.”
In addition, when BJP announced the name of Kanubhai Patel from the Sanand constituency of Ahmedabad district, the chairperson of the Sanand Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Khengar Patel, took offense thinking he has been ignored. He then decided to contest as an independent candidate.
Since Sanand is part of the Gandhinagar Loksabha constituency Home Minster showed his involvement to quell the rebellion. After meeting Shah, Khengar Patel retracted his nomination. Shah has been meeting with several rebel candidates to pacify them and monitoring such constituencies. He hoped to break all “records” of victory in this election.
Another constituency, where rebellion can cost much to BJP is Dhanera of Banaskantha district. An important name in the politics of north Gujarat, Mavjibhai Desai is rebelling and contesting as an independent. Desai comes from the Maldhari Rabari community. Though he was defeated by Nathabhai Patel in 2017 by a small Margin, he holds good support in the region. Moreover, Dhanera is a backward constituency and has a significant Schedule caste and Schedule tribe population.
Apart from these constituencies, in Umreth, Khambhat, Savli, Kheralu, Lunawada, Bayad, Kheralu, and Deesa among others, BJP has suspended rebel candidates.
Rebellion is not endemic to BJP. Congress too is facing a similar crisis though of lesser intensity. Several senior leaders resigned from the party to join BJP. Ahead of the election, Mohansinh Rathwa, a prominent tribal leader, former Minister, and Leader of the Opposition, and Bhaga Barad, a veteran Congress leader resigned from Congress and joined BJP.