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Behind Congress bid to leave Bharuch for AAP, competing claims of Ahmed Patel’s son, daughter; lack of tribal face | Political Pulse News


The discomfiture in the Congress camp in Gujarat was apparent when the seat-sharing agreement in five states / UTs with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls was announced by the two parties in Delhi on Saturday – an agreement that included the Bhavnagar and Bharuch seats, where the AAP has already announced its incumbent MLAs Umesh Makwana and Chaitar Vasava, respectively, as candidates.

The two seats have significance for the Congress as Bhavnagar district is home to Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC) chief Shaktisinh Gohil, while Bharuch is the home turf of Congress stalwart late Ahmed Patel.

Even as Vasava reached out to Congress leaders and said the seat would be won “as a tribute” to Ahmed Patel, the latter’s son Faisal, who has gone public about his desire to contest from Bharuch, indicated that the issue has not been settled. He told reporters outside his Bharuch home, “Hum milke ladenge, lekin abhi baat khatam nahi hui hai, abhi kissa jari hai (We will fight together, but the issue is not over yet, the story is still unfolding).”

Minutes after the INDIA bloc announced Chaitar as its candidate, Vasava said, “I welcome the declaration of my candidature for the Bharuch Lok Sabha seat as part of the Congress-AAP’s INDIA tie-up in Gujarat. I thank Mallikarjun Kharge, Rahul (Gandhi), Shaktisinh Gohil and the family of Ahmed Patel in Bharuch, including Mumtaz (Ahmed Patel’s daughter) and Faisal. I assure them all that we will take the Congress workers and leaders into confidence and proceed ahead. We will sit together and strategise for the elections. We will win Bharuch as a tribute to Ahmed Patel ji.”

The Bharuch seat, which has a sizeable number of tribal votes, has been represented by tribal leaders of the BJP since 1989, with the incumbent BJP MP Mansukh Vasava having held it for six terms since 1998. Ahmed Patel had held the seat from 1977 to 1984.

Festive offer

Chaitar Vasava, who is out on bail in a criminal case of alleged assault and extortion, has been barred entry into his home district of Narmada by a local court. On the third day of the AAP’s Swambhiman Yatra that he launched Thursday, Chaitar said, “I welcome Bharuch Congress leaders, including district president Rajendrasinh Rana, to join the Yatra and reach out to voters together.”

Rana had earlier written to the GPCC, stating that the district unit would revolt if the seat was passed on to the AAP.

Shaktisinh Gohil told The Indian Express, “I have spoken to most leaders, and there is no disappointment… They did have a different opinion, but at the end of the day, as disciplined soldiers of the party, we will join the campaign for the alliance. AAP workers will campaign for Congress leaders in 24 seats, while in the other two, Congress workers will campaign for AAP. We have decided to work together.”

Faisal said, “I have learnt about the decision (seat-sharing) through the media. This evening, I am going to Delhi to talk to the Congress high command… My party workers are disappointed, but I will talk to them and explain why the party has taken this decision. This is our seat and constituency, and we will follow what the party says… There is still time for the nominations and the elections.”

He said his father had worked for the people of Bharuch, that this was “our seat and our constituency”, and that the decision had made him and party workers unhappy, but they would “follow the party high command”.

Before the announcement, Faisal had taken to ‘X’ to share a video of Chaitar’s February 18 public rally, where he had said, “Even if Narendra Modi or Rahul Gandhi contest against me, I will win Bharuch… No one has the strength to stop Chaitar Vasava from winning the seat.” Faisal, in his post, said, “Anyone who disrespects and opposes our respected leader Rahul Gandhi ji will not have the support of our party workers or myself.”

However, things between Faisal and Chaitar had been different just six months back when, on the 74th birth anniversary of Ahmed Patel on August 22 last year, the two had shared the stage and Chaitar had extended support to Mumtaz’s candidature if it was agreed upon by the alliance. Later in August, Chaitar also expressed his aspiration to contest from Bharuch — with or without a mandate from the INDIA bloc.

His sister Mumtaz, who was also an aspirant for the seat, took to social media on Saturday, saying “Deeply apologise to our district cadre for not being able to secure the Bharuch Lok Sabha seat in alliance. I share your disappointment. Together, we will regroup to make (Congress) stronger. We won’t let Ahmed Patel’s 45 years of legacy go in vain.”

Mumtaz had expressed her desire to contest the Lok Sabha election while attending an event in Ahmedabad on August 12 last year.

Fortunes changed for Chaitar, who is also the AAP’s state working president and legislature party leader, in November last year, when he was booked in a case of alleged extortion and assault of a forest officer, and was on the run before being arrested.

Late last month, Faisal Patel’s posters emerged in the constituency with a tagline “Hu toh ladish (I will fight)”. Since then, he has been making appearances at the Congress events and even claimed that Mumtaz would support his candidature.

Senior GPCC leaders view Saturday’s development as a “discouraging” one, but offer a pragmatic view. A senior party leader said, “It is true that the Congress would have liked to retain Bharuch for sentimental values, and also because it was the bastion of the party’s commanding leader… But one can’t deny that the party has not won the Lok Sabha elections in either Bharuch or Bhavnagar for the last 35 years. It is a fact that after the departure of several tribal leaders ahead of the Gujarat Assembly polls in 2022, the only prominent Opposition faces in the tribal belt are Anant Patel and Chaitar Vasava… If the party high command has taken this decision in the larger interest, it will be the task of GPCC to regroup its disheartened cadre and ensure a win for the alliance.

Meanwhile, state BJP president C R Paatil has called the Congress-AAP alliance as one between “a blind man and a lame man”. On Saturday, he said, “I feel they are still daydreaming, and are not well prepared. In the 2022 state elections, Chaitar Vasava had got only 13% votes in (the Assembly constituency under) Bharuch Lok Sabha seat, while Congress had got 26%. Even their total is less than BJP’s 51%… Out of seven Assembly seats under Bharuch Lok Sabha seat, AAP candidates had lost their deposits on four. Even with such an alliance, they are hoping for victory in Bharuch and Bhavnagar, but they will not be successful. We have a strong base in both seats and will win all of Gujarat’s 26 Lok Sabha seats with 5 lakh vote margins (each).”





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