NEW DELHI: Locked in a high-stake electoral battle in Gujarat, the BJP is working overtime to engineer the exodus of a good number of Congress leaders to stay ahead in the psychological and political war in the state.
The BJP has directed almost all its key election strategists to camp in Ahmedabad and pull all strings to ensure that the party’s seat share doesn’t slip from its existing strength of 121 in the 182-member Assembly. According to the latest opinion poll, the party is likely to clinch the state for the sixth consecutive term, but its tally as well as vote share is likely to drop.
While the last dates of filing nomination papers in the two phases of polls are November 21 and 27, respectively, sources said the BJP was likely to delay the announcement of candidates in order to accommodate Congress turncoats who the party expects will jump on the BJP bandwagon.
In a bid to get the caste arithmetic correct in the crucial elections, the BJP has ensnared Koli Raju Solanki from the Congress. “The Koli community constitutes roughly about 20 per cent of the vote base in the state. Solanki is a formidable youth leader from the community who has now joined the BJP. We are working on other key caste youth leaders who could play a significant role in the December elections,” a BJP national general secretary told The Sunday Standard.
Having been in power in the state for 22 years in a row, the BJP is sensing a significant build up of anti-incumbency factor against the party. “A new crop of youth caste leaders has come up in the state, championing the causes of their respective communities. There are grievances on account of economic inequities. We are engaging them in detailed discussions on ways to address their genuine concerns,” he added.
Cashing in on the rising resentment among the youth in the state due to economic factors, the Congress appears to have recovered some of its lost ground in the state. While OBC leader Alpesh Thakor has joined the Congress, Patidar leader Hardik Patel is also negotiating with the party for a possible tie-up against the BJP in the upcoming polls.
The ruling party in the state is feeling the heat and leaving no stones unturned to stay ahead in the race to win new allies. “The BJP has enough space to accommodate political aspirations of the youth leaders. The party will not shy away from denying nominations to sitting legislators as well to attract those who are outside the BJP,” a party source said.
BJP President Amit Shah has been camping in Gujarat since the conclusion of the party’s National Executive meeting of the party in the national capital on September 25. Bhupendra Yadav, party general secretary and in-charge of Gujarat, has been camping in the state for more than a month-and-half.
The BJP had earlier orchestrated a defection in the Congress in the run-up to the Rajya Sabha elections in the state when 13 MLAs had broken ranks with the Opposition party following the rebellion of Shankarsinh Vaghela. But the party failed to prevent Sonia Gandhi’s key aide Ahmed Patel from getting re-elected to the Upper House despite pulling all stops.