Ex-MLAs, Baroda Dairy head among 19 BJP rebels in Gujarat polls fray

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The Gujarat BJP has suspended 19 of its rebel leaders so far for filing nominations against the party’s official candidates in the upcoming state Assembly polls.

While most of such BJP rebels took the Independent route, three chose the Congress and one the AAP to contest the polls.

Of the three rebels who bagged the Congress tickets – Khatubhai Pagi (Shehra seat), Chhatrasinh Gunjariya (Dhrangadhra) and Kuldeepsinh Raulji (Savli) – Raulji’s exit from the BJP in October after being “sidelined” by the party may hurt its prospects.

A director at the Baroda Dairy and a leader who started off as a milk union leader, Raulji is popular in Savli. He first won as an Independent candidate in 2009. He went on to join the BJP in 2012, winning on its ticket that year and in 2017.

The BJP rebel who switched to the AAP is Ketan Patel, a tribal leader from the Pardi constituency in Valsad district.

In the Padra constituency of the Vadodara district, Dinesh Patel alias Dinu Mama, a former two-term BJP MLA from the seat, filed his nomination as an Independent. Padra has long been a bastion of the BJP, which has not lost a seat there since 1985 until 2017, when the Congress’s Jaspal Singh Thakor won it with a margin of 20,000 votes.

Dinesh Patel is also on the board of Baroda Dairy and serves as its chairman. He first won as an Independent in 2007 and joined the BJP in 2012. Patel’s exit from the saffron party could impact the voting patterns in the Padra constituency, where he is still said to have a support base.

Politician, actor and producer Madhu Shrivastav, known for his flamboyant image, is another leader to have gone the Independent way. Shrivastav, the sitting Waghodia MLA since 1995, joined politics in 1982 by winning the civic body polls of Vadodara.

In 1985, he formed a political outfit called Lokshahi Morcha along with his cousin Chandrakant Shrivastav, who is currently a Congress corporator in Vadodara. He joined the BJP in 1996.

During his tenure as MLA, Shrivastav has been in the public eye owing to a range of controversies, including scuffles with media persons. Shrivastav had also threatened to part ways with the party several times in the past, but the BJP had largely been able to placate him. Following one such episode in March 2019, he was appointed as the chairperson of the Gujarat Agro Industries Corporation Ltd (GIACL).

BJP’s Harshad Vasava, a former two-time MLA and the president of its tribal cell, has filed his nomination papers as an Independent candidate from Nandod in Narmada district.

In Lunawada of Mahisagar district, the BJP suspended SM Khant and JP Patel, both of whom filed nominations as Independents against sitting BJP MLA Jignesh Sevak. The party suspended Ramesh Zala and Amarsinh Zala in Anand for filing nominations against party candidates from Umreth and Khambhat constituencies respectively.

In north Gujarat, comprising Mehsana, Patan, Banaskantha, Aravalli, Sabarkantha and Gandhinagar districts, the BJP suspended several party leaders including Dhavalsinh Zala, Ramsinh Thakor, Mavji Desai and Lebaji Thakor for filing their nominations as Independents from Bayad (Aravalli), Kheralu (Mehsana), Dhanera (Banaskantha) and Deesa (Banaskantha), respectively.

Miffed with the party for being denied a ticket, Dhavalsinh Zala of the Bayad constituency has also filed his nomination as an Independent candidate. Zala, a close aide of OBC leader Alpesh Thakor, was elected on the Congress ticket from Bayad in 2017. He resigned from the party in 2019 to join the BJP with Thakor. Zala, however, lost the by-election held subsequently.

In Keshod, Rajkot Rural, Veraval and Rajula constituencies of the Saurashtra region, BJP leaders Arvind Ladani, Bharat Chavda, Uday Shah and Karan Baraiya have been suspended from the party.