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Rebels run riot, upset poll math

It is not uncommon for politicians across India to switch parties or turn rebels during elections, but rebel politics has scaled a new peak in Gujarat this time, Rajesh Mahapatra and Mahesh Langa report.

india Updated: Dec 07, 2012 01:59 IST

Jagruti Pandya, the newly-floated Gujarat Parivartan Party's candidate from Ellisbridge seat of Ahmedabad, switched sides because she wants justice for her slain husband, ex-home minister Haren Pandya.

Congress MLA Shankarbhai Vaghela has turned a rebel because he lost his seat to delimitation.

Sitting MLA Shabir Kabliwala of Jamalapur is contesting as independent candidate after he was denied a Congress ticket in his Muslim-dominated constituency.

Pandya, Vaghela and Kabliwala are among 100-odd candidates who have either switched sides or are contesting as Independents in the coming assembly elections.

It is not uncommon for politicians across India to switch parties or turn rebels during elections, but rebel politics has scaled a new peak in Gujarat this time, complicating the electoral arithmetic and causing much anxiety among political parties.

Analysts say the BJP will likely be hit more than the Congress by rebel politics in this election.

Indeed, the biggest wild card in this election is likely to be someone who has not just switched sides but formed his own party. After being marginalised in the BJP, former chief minister Keshubhai Patel walked out to form the Gujarat Parivartan Party.

This means that while Gujarat's polity has been mostly bipolar for decades, 2012 is set to see a triangular contest in most of the key Saurashtra region and some areas in the south.

Saurashtra accounts for 54 of the state's 182 seats and is a stronghold of the powerful Leuva Patel community to which Keshubhai belongs.

"Keshubhai's party may not win many seats, but it will certainly be a big spoiler for the BJP," said leading political analyst Achyut Yagnik.

Chief minister Narendra Modi is trying to offset the losses by focusing on the tribals who make up about 15% of the electorate - the same as the estranged Leuva Patels.

While Keshubhai's defection has highlighted the infighting in the BJP, the Congress also has its share of trouble with disgruntled elements.

Earlier this week, Narhari Amin, one of the most visible faces of the Gujarat Congress, quit the party after being denied a ticket.

About half a dozen unhappy state leaders followed Amin, but several of them returned to the Congress fold within days.

Modi, who has been trying to cash in on the latest squabbles within the Congress, inducted Amin into the BJP at a hurriedly-called news conference on Thursday.

There has been much heartburn over ticket distribution this time because of delimitation - an exercise undertaken under the Constitution to redraw constituency maps at regular intervals.

About 60 seats across the state have seen substantive changes in social and demographic profiles, affecting nearly 25 sitting MLAs including six ministers in the present government.