A number of former Congress MLAs in Gujarat, who joined the Bharatiya Janata Party after resigning as legislators in the last five years, have been given an opportunity by the ruling party to fight the upcoming state assembly polls.
Apart from former Congress working president and prominent Patidar leader Hardik Patel, who quit the opposition party in May this year, several former Congress MLAs who joined the BJP, have been given tickets from the seats from where they had won byelections.
The BJP on Thursday released its first list of 160 candidates for the two-phase elections to the 182-member Gujarat assembly, fielding Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel from his constituency Ghatlodia and dropping a large number of sitting MLAs.
The Congress had won 77 seats in the 2017 assembly elections. Of these 77 legislators, as many as 20 resigned during the past five years, with three quitting in the last two days alone.
A majority of these 20 MLAs had won the byelections necessitated by their resignation and most of them have been given another chance by the BJP to contest the elections to be held on December 1 and 5.
The BJP has given ticket to Rajendrasinh Rathva, son of Congress's senior-most former MLA and tribal leader Mohan Rathva, who had resigned two days before the ruling party announced its list. Patel will contest from Viramgam seat.
Apart from Rathva, the MLAs who resigned this year, including Bhagvan Barad, Harshad Ribadiya, and Ashvin Kotwal, have also been given a chance to contest from their respective seats Talala, Visavadar, and Khedbrahma, as BJP candidates.
The party is yet to decide the fate of Bhavesh Katara, the latest to resign from the Congress, as it has not yet declared the name of candidate on the Jhalod seat which he represented.
Also, the BJP is yet to decide whether prominent OBC leader Alpesh Thakor, who had quit the Congress from the Radhanpur seat in 2019 and lost the byelection, will get a chance to contest the upcoming election on its ticket or not as the ruling party is yet to declare the name of candidate from this seat.
Among the MLAs who had quit the Congress (in the last five years) and won the bypolls on the BJP ticket are Kunvarji Bavaliya (Jasdan seat), Jawahar Chavda (Manavadar), Jitu Chaudhary (Kaprada), Akshay Patel (Karjan), J V Kakadiya (Dhari), and Pradyumnasinh Jadeja (Abdasa).
Bavaliya had resigned in July 2018 and became the first Congress MLA to quit after the 2017 elections. The prominent Koli leader went on to win from his stronghold Jasdan and was made a cabinet minister.
Jitu Chaudhary, an MLA from Scheduled Tribe-reserved seat of Kaprada, who was made the Minister of State for Fisheries and Kalpsar after winning the byelection, is among the Congress turncoat MLAs who have been repeated by the BJP.
The saffron party, however, decided not to give another chance to Brijesh Merja, a former Congress MLA who had resigned in March 2020 ahead of the Rajya Sabha election, and won the Morbi byelection. On October 30, as many as 135 people lost their lives in the Morbi suspension bridge collapse tragedy that occurred in his constituency.
The BJP has also not given a chance to Dhrangadhra MLA Parshottam Sabariya. He had resigned as a Congress legislator in March 2019 and went on to win the byelection as a BJP candidate. But this time, the BJP has fielded Prakash Varmora from this seat.
The BJP also decided not to give another chance to former Bayad MLA Dhavalsinh Zala, who had resigned along with the then Radhanpur Congress MLA Alpesh Thakor. Both Zala and Thakor had resigned in June 2019, and both of them lost to Congress candidates in the byelection that followed. Thakor's fate is yet to be decided by the BJP.