Top BJP leader may walk out with 25 MLAs to form an independent group

Gandhinagar: After the Congress succeeded in fending off a determined BJP effort to form the government in Karnataka, PM Narendra Modi‘s home state, Gujarat, is warming up to mind games between the two principal opponents, one seeking an encore and the other determined to safeguard it’s turf.

Gujarat, always important in the scheme of BJP’s national affairs, has acquired added importance as the home state of the PM. After the Congress managed to snatch Karnataka in the recently-concluded state assembly elections, it has been emboldened enough to explore the possibility of staging a coup in Gujarat.

The BJP, on the other hand, is determined to ensure that no such Congress moves fructify as it would be lethal to lose Gujarat in the run up to the general elections which is just about a year away. Speculation is rife that a prominent BJP leader of the state may walk out of the party with about 25 disgruntled legislators to form an independent group which could stake claim with the Congress support.

The stage was set by Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) leader Hardik Patel in the last week of May when he offered his position to deputy chief minister Nitin Patel as head of PAAS, if he resigned from the government and joined the Patidar pro-reservation movement. “The BJP is determined to neutralise Nitin Patel by removing him from the Vijay Rupani government, on one pretext or the other. Three other leaders — Keshubhai Patel, Gordhan Jhadapia and recently Dr Pravin Togadia — were meted out this fate. This will also happen to Nitin Patel. There are already 24 legislators waiting to jump ship and many of them have already contacted us,” Hardik had stated.

Though Nitin Patel denied that he was thinking of moving out of the BJP and termed it as a move to tar his reputation, the speculation refused to die down. At its core is believed to be BJP chief Amit Shah’s unhappiness with Patel. Outgoing chief minister Anandiben Patel had favoured Nitin as her replacement but Shah managed to get his lightweight protégé Rupani appointed with Patel being relegated to the post of deputy chief minister.

Again, though Nitin Patel was projected as the Patidar face of BJP to blunt the aggressive Hardik in the Gujarat state assembly elections last year, Nitin was again sought to be marginalised in government formation. He was largely expected to lose but won, though BJP barely managed to scrape through. He was made the deputy chief minister but the key finance portfolio was taken away from him. However in the face of an outcry and public tantrums by Patel, finance was handed over to him. He has however remained in Amit Shah’s cross-hairs.

Frenzied parleys behind the back of Patel have fuelled speculation that Nitin Patel is marked for the axe. The marginalisation of Nandina Patel’s supporters and her departure from the scene following her appointment as governor of neighbouring Madhya Pradesh is another reasons.  Despite Nitinbhai’s persistent denial, Hardik continues to remain optimistic. “Sooner or later Nitinbhai will join us because he will be driven out of the BJP, just wait and see-and there will be no other option left for him,” Hardik adds.


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