BJP arm-twisting Gujarat MLA to switch sides: Congress

Congress MLA from Jhalod-Dahod district, Bhavesh Katara, who is reportedly keeping a very low profile for the last few months, is being pressurised by the ruling party in Gujarat to join the BJP. His refusal may mean that his brother Amit, arrested in a BJP worker’s murder case, may not get bail, alleged party sources.

Confirming this development, Leader of Opposition and Congress tribal leader Sukhram Rathva said, “I too have heard that he is being pressurised to join the BJP, arm-twisted by the ruling party. Bhavesh also fears that like his brother Amit, he too may be framed in a false case.”

Amit Katara was arrested and chargesheeted in BJP worker Hiren Patel’s murder case in 2021 and since then he is in judicial custody.

Rathva said Bhavesh and his family will not easily succumb to such political pressure and muscle power and quit the Congress, but if it happens it will not have any adverse impact on the party’s prospects in Jhalod constituency. Neither will the party face any difficulty in finding a candidate as there are many leaders like Mitesh Garasiya, Ditabhai Machhar and many others who can be fielded on the party symbol.

When asked why the BJP wants Bhavesh to join the party when the party had suspended his father and two-term BJP MP Babubhai Katara in 2007 in a human trafficking case, Congress party sources said that Jhalod constituency’s electoral history gives the answer. “In 13 times assembly elections, BJP has only won once from this seat in 2002, otherwise the Congress has retained this seat,” they added.

Rathva said the Congress has always won the seat with a big margin, in 2017, then state unit president Bharatsinh Solanki dropped sitting MLA Mitesh Garasiya and gave the ticket to Bhavesh and the party won the seat. But his father Babubhai lost the Lok Sabha elections from the Dahod seat in 2019.

There is no doubt that Bhavesh and his entire family are under pressure from the ruling party, said Chandrika Baraiya, Congress MLA from Garbada in Dahod district. She said since the BJP is in power in the state, it is trying to lure leaders and MLAs from the opposition party either by offering money, a berth in the cabinet or a party post. If that doesn’t work, the person is framed in a false case.

She has seen Bhavesh active in party meetings and events, even when Rahul Gandhi visited Dahod, Bhavesh was there for the entire day. But BJP district president Shankarbhai Amaliyar claimed that Bhavesh has stopped attending Congress party meetings for long.

According to Amaliyar, at least at the district level, the party is not trying to influence Bhavesh to join the BJP. He added, “I don’t know if any talks are going on at the state level, but if that happens the district committee will follow the line.”

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