Gujarat BJP president Jitu Vaghani said today the Indian National Congress (INC), which supported the “tukde-tukde gang”, has now itself disintegrated in the state — as he welcomed five former INC MLAs into the saffron fold on Saturday.
The five former INC MLAs had quit the party before the just-concluded Rajya Sabha election. The Gujarat unit president of the ruling party said the INC, which supported the “tukde-tukde gang” — a reference to the JNU students who had allegedly raised anti-India slogans and hosted separatist Kashmiris inside the university campus in 2016 — has now itself broken into pieces in the state. Vaghani said that there had been four such defections from the INC to the BJP during his tenure.
Two of the former MLAs who joined the party today fumbled in their speeches, mixing up references to the BJP and the INC. Four of these MLAs had previously been with the BJP before they got elected on INC nominations.
In a formal event attended by senior office-bearers of the BJP at its headquarters at Kamlam in Gandhinagar this afternoon, Vaghani welcomed former MLAs JV Kakadiya (Dhari), Pradyumansinh Jadeja (Abdasa). Both had quit the INC with three other MLAs after the announcement of the Rajya Sabha election in March 2020.
Three other MLAs Brijesh Merja (Morbi), Jitu Chaudhary (Kaprada) and Akshay Patel (Karjan) had quit the INC in the first week of June when Rajya Sabha polls were around the corner on 19 June. These eight exits since March 2020 cost the INC a Rajya Sabha seat. They also helped BJP, which did not have the required numbers of MLAs to win a third seat in the polls.
Vaghani, who welcomed each of the five former INC MLAs separately in the auditorium, ensured that it was done in the presence of district party leaders of the BJP. The Gujarat unit president of the BJP felicitated every MLA with a saffron scarf.
“The BJP has been elected for the sixth time in Gujarat and when the current term finishes in 2022, the party would complete 28 consecutive years or ruling the state,” said Vaghani in his opening remarks.
The attendees had turned up in masks. They sat, keeping two seats vacant between them.
“The Congress, which is busy supporting the tukde-tukde gang, itself has become tukde-tukde in the state,” Vaghani said. He noted that this was the fourth time in his tenure as party president that the INC MLAs were quitting the party and joining the BJP. He cited the instances of 2014, 2017, 2019 and 2020 when INC MLAs had quit the party in Gujarat and joined BJP.
“This is the fourth time in my tenure that the MLAs have quit the Congress due to the infighting and factionalism. There are groups of Ahmed Patel and groups of other states. They will not come to power even in 2022… They cannot remain united even in opposition, what kind of service will they provide if they come to power? Today the Congress is in a helpless situation… They (the MLAs) have left such a Congress,” Vaghani said. He added that their addition would strengthen the party at the district level.
When told about the INC’s allegation of “horse-trading” against the BJP, Vaghani said, “Before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, five MLAs left the INC and joined BJP. In 2017, in order to save one Ahmed Patel, the party allowed 14 MLAs to resign including the Leader of the Opposition (Shankersinh Vaghela). In 2019, five more MLAs left the party and joined BJP and now these MLAs have quit. This has been happening repeatedly and the INC should close its shop in Gujarat.”
Asked if the five ex-MLAs who joined the BJP today would be given tickets to fight the election, Vaghani said it was a decision for the central parliamentary board of the party to make.
When given a chance to react on their joining the BJP, former INC MLA from Karjan Akshay Patel ended up thanking Amit Chavda (GPCC President) only to correct it to Amit Shah (Union home minister). Similarly, former INC MLA from Dhari, JV Kakadia said he had quit the “BJP to join the Congress”. He immediately corrected himself and apologised. Kakadia was replying to a question of how he would remain loyal to the BJP when he could not remain loyal to the INC.
BJP president intervened during the interaction and pointed out that Pradhuymansinh Jadeja, JV Kakadia and Jitu Chaudhary had earlier been members of his party.
Akshay Patel alleged that the INC remembers its MLAs only before Rajya Sabha election. When asked why he joined the BJP, he said, “I have seen that only BJP can develop this country and so I have joined them.”
Former INC MLA from Morbi Brijesh Merja said he has joined the BJP as a “soldier”. “I have done work worth Rs 265 crore while in the opposition and I wish to continue the work here as well,” Merja added. Jitu Chaudhary said he had been associated with INC for the last 17 years and felt he would be able to deliver more in the tribal areas with his BJP association. “The BJP has been ruling for last 25 years and I feel I will be able to work better for my region with BJP,” said Chaudhary.