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Countdown to Gujarat polls: Smaller Parties to jump into the fray

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Countdown to Gujarat polls: Smaller Parties to jump into the fray
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Ahmedabad: Besides the two major political parties - Congress and BJP - many smaller parties are going to jump into the electoral fray in the December assembly polls. The most prominent among them are the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Jan Vikalp floated by former Congress leader and union minister Shankersinh Vaghela, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Janata Dal (United) faction of Sharad Yadav, Samajwadi party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).

AAP, which set up its unit after its landslide victory in Delhi assembly polls, had earlier announced it would not to contest the Assembly elections on the ground it did not have enough organisational infrastructure required to fight assembly polls. It was on this ground that it had avoided contesting municipal and district panchayat polls in 2015. Its state in-charge and Delhi MLA Gulab Singh Yadav had said that the party's priority was to strengthen organisational unis in all districts and assembly constituencies before jumping into the electoral fray. But the party made a U-turn after it replaced Yadav by Gopal Rai a few months ago. Rai has announced that the party would contest elections from selected constituencies where it is strong. But the party's changed stance is being viewed by political analysts as also congress leaders to divide the non-BJP votes and help the BJP.

Political analysts say that AAP decided to contest polls after it became clear that the BJP was losing its political ground to the Congress. Many analysts say that AAP, though it presents itself to be a secular outfit, has been floated secretly by RSS to split the non-BJP votes with a view to defeating the Congress to achieve the "Congress-mukt Bharat " goal of of BJP and the RSS. AAP has released its first list of 11 candidates and surpringly these are the constituencies where the Congress is in a very strong position. This gives credence to the suspicion of the Congress as well as political watchers.

AAP's Gujarat face and former BJP MLA Dr Kanubhai Kalsariya met Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi on 23 October requesting Congress to support his (Kalsariya) candidature from Mahuva assembly seat from where he was twice elected as MLA. But state Congress President Bharatsinh Solanki has said that there cannot be any electoral alliance with with Dr. Kalsariya or the AAP.

Former Congress leader and union minister Shankersinh Vaghela has floated "Jan Vikalp" (people's alternative) after quitting the Congress in August this year. Vaghela, who commanded a faction in the Congress, has lost his political position after leaving the Congress. This is because all 13 MLAs who left the Congress with him have joined the BJP. Having a strong RSS background, the 78-year-old veteran politician who as a BJP MLA had led a rebellion against the BJP government in 1996 and formed his own government with the Congress support, is now finding himself all alone. He tried to have an alliance with AAP and NCP but both the parties have spurned his offer. He will now be fielding independent candidates and has demanded tractor as symbol for his candidates.

NCP, which fought 2007 and 2012 assembly polls in alliance with Congress and won two and three seats in 2007 and 2012 respectively, earned the ire of the Congress after two NCP MLAs voted for the BJP in Rajya sabha elections. But NCP is desperate to have alliance with the Congress because it does not have its own base to win the elections on its own. NCP state president Jayant Patel alias Bosky, who is also an MLA, says that while one of NCP’s MLAs Kandhal Jadeja voted BJP, he himself voted for Congress nominee Ahmed Patel. He says that there was a strong rebellion in the Congress and it was possible that one of its own MLAs, besides the 14 rebels, may have voted secretly for the BJP. Bosky says that if the Congress cannot control its own MLAs, how can it expect NCP to control its MLAs. State Congress President Bharatsinh Solanki, when asked said that since NCP is showing interest in having alliance with Congress, the party would certainly think over it forgetting what happened in RS polls in August. NCP was allotted five seats in 2012.

The Sharad Yadav faction of JDU which stood solidly with the Congress in RS polls resulting in victory of Ahmed Patel, has called for a 'mahagathbandan’ (grand alliance) of all opposition parties on the lines of that in Bihar. Its state as well as acting national president Chhotubhai Vasava says BJP can be defeated only with the combined strength of all opposition parties. The lone JDU MLA, Vasava is a very influential tribal leader. It was his vote that converted Ahmed Patel's likely defeat into a victory and boosted the image of the Congress all over the country thereby sending a message that BJP can be defeated if opposition parties grouped together. Vasava is demanding three seats from the Congress and promised that he will support the Congress in the entire tribal belt. The Congress had, in principle, accepted his demand of three seats. In fact, Vasava has always been demanding for a coalition with the Congress but it was the latter that turned down the offer. With Vasava's support, Congress can immensely benefit not only on seats reserved for tribals but also on other seats where tribal voters are in sizeable strength.

As for SP, it's national president and former UP chief minister Akhilesh yadav has demanded five seats from the Congress and declared its support for the rest of 177 seats. Its state president Surendra Yadav, a week ago called on Congress President Bharatsinh Solanki asking for electoral alliance, with no concrete reply from the latter.

SP has no base except among the migrants from UP and Bihar, in Surat and in industrial towns of south Gujarat. In 2012, SP contested 68 seats but unsuccessfully. However, it polled around 16,000 votes in some of the constituencies in South Gujarat that caused defeat of Congress candidates in those seats. Yadav had announced that SP would contest on its own again if Congress does not accept its demand.

BSP, meanwhile, has not approached any party for electoral alliance. It had been fielding candidates on all 182 seats since 2007 but polled not more than one per cent of votes.

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