Setback for Congress in Gujarat as senior leaders Ambrish Der, Modhwadia resign - Hindustan Times

Setback for Congress in Gujarat as senior leaders Ambrish Der, Modhwadia resign

Mar 04, 2024 07:48 PM IST

Congress Gujarat state unit working president Ambrish Der and Arjun Modhwadia, a sitting MLA from Porbandar, resigned one after the other on Monday and both are likely to join the BJP

The Congress party faced a significant setback before the upcoming Lok Sabha elections as two senior leaders in Gujarat, including Arjun Modhwadia, a sitting MLA from Porbandar, and state unit working president Ambrish Der, resigned one after the other on Monday. They both are likely to join the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the state.

Arjun Modhwadia with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. (PTI File Photo)
Arjun Modhwadia with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. (PTI File Photo)

Despite ongoing speculation about Modhwadia’s potential switch to the BJP, he has consistently refuted such rumors in the past. On Monday he tendered his resignation to Gujarat assembly speaker Shankar Chaudhary. Modhwadia, who was also the leader of the Opposition in the Assembly before he resigned today, has also been the Gujarat Congress president in the past.

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A senior BJP leader, when contacted, confirmed about Modhwadia going to join the saffron party soon. Gujarat Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi confirmed Modhwadia’s resignation from the party.

“Thousands of party workers have toiled tirelessly day and night to secure victory for a leader. Arjunbhai should bear this in mind. The party has entrusted him with a ticket to contest assembly elections four times, and he has also served as the Gujarat state president. I pose a question to the BJP: despite their three-decade-long rule in Gujarat, why do they rely on turncoats during elections?”

Ahead of Der’s resignation, Gujarat Congress president Shaktisinh Gohil informed reporters that during a meeting held on the night of March 3, the party’s disciplinary committee had suspended Der from all party roles and as a primary member of the Congress for six years due to his “anti-party activities”.

Significantly, Gohil’s announcement followed closely after local TV channels aired footage of Gujarat Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president C.R. Paatil visiting former MLA Der’s residence in Ahmedabad earlier that morning.

With more resignations expected in the coming days, the timing of these departures, just before Rahul Gandhi’s Nyay Yatra, delivers a blow to the Congress party. The Nyay Yatra will enter the state at Dahod in the afternoon on March 7 and will cover 400 kilometres across seven districts over four days.

In the Gujarat assembly elections in 2022, BJP retained power for the seventh straight term, winning 156 out of the total 182 Assembly seats. The Congress bagged 17 seats, five seats went to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), three seats were won by independents and one by Samajwadi Party. With Modhwadia’s resignation, the party’s strength in the assembly has now reduced to 14 with Chatursinh Javanji Chavda, popularly known as C J Chavda, resigning in January from the Vijpaur assembly constituency which he represented. A month before Chavda’s exit, Chirag Patel, another sitting MLA, representing Khambhatt constituency, resigned and joined the BJP.

The BJP has set an ambitious target of retaining all the 26 seats in the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah, but this time by winning with a margin of at least 5 lakh votes.

While the opposition parties are trying to keep their flocks intact, the ruling BJP seems to be leaving no stones unturned to ensure their big win from Gujarat, where they secured a landslide victory with 156 seats in the state assembly elections of 2022. Both the AAP and Congress are working out strategies to ensure that their MLAs do not switch to the BJP. But they haven’t been very successful.

On February 27, the BJP enlisted Congress’ tribal leader and Rajya Sabha MP Naran Rathwa, along with his son Sangramsinh Rathwa, into the saffron party. Rathwa, a five-time Lok Sabha MP from Chhota Udepur has served as Union minister of state for railways between 2004 and 2009.

In December, Bhupendra Bhayani, an MLA from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), stepped down from the Visavadar seat, diminishing the AAP’s representation in the assembly to four MLAs. Independent MLA Dharmendrasinh Vaghela resigned from his position in the Gujarat Legislative Assembly on Thursday, becoming the third legislator to do so in the last two months.

On January 26, independent MLA Dharmendrasinh Vaghela, representing the Vaghodia assembly constituency in Vadodara district, resigned to join the BJP.

Many MLAs and leaders who have recently switched over to the BJP have cited Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s able leadership at the Centre and the establishment of Ram Temple in Ayodhya as key reasons for their defection.

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