BJP is set to contest the forthcoming Gujarat assembly polls with 14 Congress rebel MLAs in the field, aiming to dampen Congress prospects on seats that the party has held. It hopes to add votes that have eluded the saffron party in an election where its rival is trying to build a larger coalition.
BJP leaders expect the former Congress MLAs to throw their all in retaining their seats and pull in some more support that could help counter the Congress challenge. The decision of OBC leader Alpesh Thakor to join Congress is seen as an accretion to the party but not a major one as BJP feels the community vote has tilted towards the rival which has leaders like Bharatsinh Solanki in its ranks. On the other hand, the Thakor community is seen at odds with Patels who have had differences with BJP.
BJP sources confirmed that 12 Congress rebels will be their official candidates in the forthcoming assembly polls whereas Shankersinh Vaghela and his son Mahendrasinh, who have floated a new political outfit, could contest in alliance with the saffron party though so far the veteran leader has indicated that he is keen on a separate outfit. “The Congress MLAs will add votes to the BJP kitty as most of them have their own following,” said a party leader. The saffron party is following the same formula it had applied in UP and Uttarakhand polls where it had fielded several leaders from Congress and BSP.
BJP leaders pointed to 70 members of Patel Amanat Andolan Samiti, including aides of Hardik Patel Varun Patel, Reshma Patel, Mahesh Patel and Geeta Patel, announcing their decision to join BJP.