In a huge setback to the Congress ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, five of its sitting legislators have quit the party in the last few days for the BJP to rally behind its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.
In the 182-member House where the BJP enjoys a brute majority of 119, the resignations change little but clearly indicate that Modi continues to have a firm grip on state politics even as he travels across the country campaigning for the general elections.
Modi has also managed to send a strong signal to his detractors within the BJP that in his quest to be the next PM, he has not ignored the party’s interests in Gujarat.
The latest jolt to the Congress came on Monday when MLAs Chhabilbhai Patel and Prabhubhai Vasava submitted resignations to speaker Vajubhai Vala.
Earlier, Jasa Barad and Bavku Udhad had left the already demoralised Congress to join the BJP.
Rajendrasinh Chavda, who had defeated former minister of state for home Praful Patel in the 2012 elections, joined the BJP last week.
There was a revolt in the Gujarat Congress when Chavda, son of former minister Ranjitsinh Chavda, was given the party ticket from Himmatnagar. Ranjitsinh was one of the 62 people named by Zakia Jafri in a 2002 anti-Muslim riot case.
All of the “deserters” described Modi as the “only choice” for the prime minister’s post and said as BJP soldiers, they would work to ensure that the Gujarat CM “leads the country”.
The resignations have reduced the Congress tally to 51 from the 60 seats it won in the 2012 state elections. The numbers may fall further as more leaders were looking to exit the party in the run up to the Lok Sabha polls, sources in the Gujarat Congress said.
A worried Congress has rushed general secretary Gurudas Kamat to the western state to stop the exodus.