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A unique fight between BJP and rebels
Snehesh Alex Philip in Kalol, Gujarat | December 12, 2007 12:26 IST
If the Bharatiya Janata Party were to assess the damage party rebels could cause to it in the assembly polls, it wouldn't have to go very far: just 170 km from Ahmedabad in the Kalol constituency, the son of a sitting party legislator is contesting as an independent in his father's constituency.
That's not all -- the one-time Hindutva icon of the party, Uma Bharti, too has fielded her candidate.
The Kalol constituency falls under Panchamahal district, which witnessed large-scale violence during post-Godhra 2002 riots. The sitting MLA, Prabhatsinh Chauhan, is Minister for Tribal Affairs and has been shifted to the neighbouring constituency Godhra. However, his son, Pravinsinh Chauhan has jumped into the fray. The BJP's nominee is Navinchandra Kantilal Patel, a confidant of Chauhan. Polling is due in the constituency on December 16.
Though Prabhatsinh Chauhan has publicly disowned his son many times, BJP sources admit that the ploy is to retain the Kalol seat within the family.
Party sources allege that Pravinsinh is a listed bootlegger and also an accused in several cases, including rioting and Arms Act violations. In previous elections, Pravinsinh headed his father's poll campaigns.
Today, Pravinsinh seems to have divided BJP party workers, many of whom are openly working for him. It is not just Pravinsinh who is troubling the BJP. Shanta Parmar, wife of Eral rape and murder accused Chandrakant Parmar, is fighting the election as a candidate for Uma Bharti's Bharatiya Janshakti Party.
Chandrakant Parmar, alias Kahabhai Dada, is serving life term for rioting, rape and murder. Not long ago he was BJP's taluka panchayat president. Things changed after a court verdict on October 31.
A close relative of Shanta Parmar said, "The government did not do anything to save our family and our villagers. I have the entire community with me, and they have understood what the BJP is capable of."
BJP supporters do agree that Parmar would cut into the party votes, they are confident that the impact will be restricted to just the Eral village, from where she hails, and to few villages around it.
"She will not play a major role. Her impact is limited to just Eral and areas around it. Despite the party shifting the sitting MLA to Godhra, the voters in this constituency continue to back the party for the development work that we have done," says a senior district BJP leader.
In the ensuing tussle within the saffron party, it's the Congress that hopes to make the maximum profit.
"Riots hit the constituency very hard. The people have realised what the BJP stands for. Moreover, Pravinsinh and Parmar will upset BJP's calculations, which will work in our favour. The BJP talk of development is hollow since none has taken place here," says Ajitsinh S Bhati, general secretary, Panchmahal district Congress committee.
The 2002 riots seem have emerged as a bigger issue in this constituency than development work, the BJP's main plank.
"The riots changed everything. People who had supported the BJP have now been convicted. The party has let us down. Pravinsinh will certainly divide the BJP voters," says Harish Bhatt, a shopowner in Kalol city.