In a major blow to Congress ahead of the Gujarat Assembly polls, senior party leader and former deputy chief minister Narhari Amin switched sides and joined the BJP with his supporters in Ahmedabad on Thursday.
Amin, who has sizeable support in the politically powerful Patel community, was welcomed into the party by Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, who described the move as a step towards strengthening democracy.
Amin's 21-year-old association with the Congress where he worked hard to build and maintain a strong base of party workers, ended after he was denied ticket by the party for 2012 assembly polls.
He was seen sharing stage in all important events of Congress, with the state top leaders in the last one year, since the party started campaigning for the 2012 elections.
Amin said that senior leaders like him were 'insulted' by the Congress as it had given tickets to unknown faces but those who had worked for the party for the last so many years were ignored.
"Everything was going fine in the Congress party till ticket distribution. At the time of ticket distribution differences between the state Congress leaders came to fore as all of them wanted tickets to be distributed to maximum number of their supporters," he said.
"The high command also ignored senior leaders and played along with the choices of state leaders. State leaders after elections did not want to have a challenger and that is why they denied ticket to me and other strong contenders of party who could have easily won elections," he added.
Welcoming Amin to BJP, Modi said, "He is a leader who had remained among people to serve them since his youth. Coming of Amin to the party (BJP) will strengthen democracy".
"Congress has not only cheated people, but it has also cheated party workers by denying them tickets. It is important to defeat family oriented politics of Congress," Modi said.
Amin alleged that union minister C P Joshi, who was in-charge of screening committee on ticket distribution has fixed the polls before voting by giving tickets to unknown faces.
"I am sure that BJP will win this election and Modi will secure a hat-trick in the state. I will work for the BJP now," he said.
Amin is a prize catch for BJP, given the challenge it is facing in Saurashtra region where former chief minister and Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) president Keshubhai Patel has come out all-guns-blazing against Narendra Modi government.
Amin resigned from the Congress along with his six supporters. Another 175 of his supporters also resigned from the primary membership of the party on Wednesday. All of them joined BJP on Thursday along with him. An influential Patel community leader with a sizable fan following, he was not given nomination for the coming assembly polls on the ground that he had lost two consecutive electoral battles.
The former president of Gujarat Cricket Association (GCA) held a show of strength recently by organising a meeting of his supporters on the outskirts of the city and attacked the Congress high command and PCC leaders for denying tickets to "worthy" candidates.