In a late night development on Tuesday, sitting BJP MLA from Sami-Harij constituency, Bhavsinh Rathod joined Gujarat Congress, sources said.
A new political storm has kicked up in the dusty bylanes of Patan and Banaskantha, and is threatening to blow away Congress and BJP.
Sitting BJP MLA from Sami-Harij constituency, Bhavsinh Rathod personifies this storm, almost cornering the saffron party in the wake of his demands for a new constituency. Delimitation has dissolved Sami-Harij and split his loyal voters to two constituencies, Chanasma and Radhanpur.
The Thakor leader is now eyeing Radhanpur for a seat in the state assembly.
It was his runaway victory in 1995 state assembly elections that established Rathod’s clout among Thakors in North Gujarat. Contesting as an independent candidate, he pulverised his competition from the political bigwigs into submission.
Gauging his potential to sway three or four constituencies in one fell blow, Congress warmed up to Rathod in 2007 and he didn’t disappoint. Rathod trounced two-time BJP MLA, Dilip Thakor and lorded over Sami-Harij constituency. Two years later, he staked his claim at Patan for a seat in the Parliament, but Congress was dismissive of him. BJP was ready to play his card and gave him the ticket, only to lose to Congress’s candidate from Patan, Jagdish Thakor. Rathod, however, was unperturbed by this defeat. Fighting from the saffron camp, he won from Sami-Harij constituency again, the seat he had vacated for Patan.
Many attribute Rathod’s rise to power to the mass weddings he has organised for the Thakor community in North Gujarat. “Bhavsinh Rathod is a political heavyweight in the region, unruffled by the giants and gaining popularity by the day,” said a district-level politico from Patan. “The popularity holds significance in this region because the community form bulk of voters in at least four constituencies here.”
“No political party – BJP or Congress – can ignore him. He is not of his party, but of his people. Community politics matter a lot during elections, and Bhavsinh knows this very well,” said the local leader. Yes, Rathod knows this very well, which is reason why he was demanding Radhanpur constituency from the saffron party.
Being a disciplined party, BJP might not entertain Bhavsinh’s claims but this might put them in the line of Rathod’s ‘revolt’ fire, something he has been known for since the beginning of his political career.
“Post delimitation, there are about 70,000 Thakor voters in Radhanpur. There is no leader in the community who can challenge Rathod,” said an insider in BJP. “With him in Congress, he will draw support of party’s loyal votebank and pose a major threat to Shankar Chaudhary, who is BJP MLA from Radhanpur and its general secretary.”