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Defections are not arbitrary, it’s BJP’s plan to ‘demoralise Congress through mind games’

There's a flurry of Congress leaders defecting to BJP as the saffron party looks to strengthen itself. Maharashtra's Sujay Vikhe Patil is only the latest joinee.

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New Delhi: Sujay Vikhe Patil, a Congress leader in Maharashtra, Tuesday joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), adding to a spate of recent defections from the main opposition party to the ruling party which has a simple two-pronged strategy to tackle the Congress.

Ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, the BJP is looking to “beat its rival in the mind-game” and “strengthen the party”.

Patil is the son of the leader of opposition in the Maharashtra assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, and his defection has left the Congress red-faced.

In the past week or so, four Congress legislators in Gujarat have also joined the BJP.

A highly placed source in the BJP claims “the party is working to a design” and hopes to “demoralise the Congress and send out a message of BJP being the more bankable party”.

Also read: BJP’s promise vs delivery — it’s a mixed bag for Modi govt on black money, jobs & more

The defectors

Patil, who joined the BJP in the presence of Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadanvis, wanted a ticket from the Ahmednagar Lok Sabha constituency. However, in the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party alliance pact, the seat is with the NCP which declined to let go of it.

In Gujarat, meanwhile, where the BJP won the December 2017 assembly polls with a narrow margin, the Congress seems to be facing an exodus of sorts.

Manavadar MLA Jawahar Chavda, Unjha MLA Asha Patel, Dhrangadhra MLA Parshottam Sabaria and Jamnagar (Rural) MLA Vallabh Dharaviya have all switched from the Congress to the ruling BJP in the last week.

In July last year, Gujarat Congress MLA Kunvarji Bavaliya had joined BJP.

Prominent OBC leader Alpesh Thakor, who joined Congress in the run-up to the 2017 assembly polls in Gujarat, has also been in talks with the BJP, having expressed his unhappiness with his party publicly.

Thakor, however, has said he is not joining the BJP for now.

There is also speculation about Congress leader and former Lok Sabha MP Deepa Dasmunsi, wife of former Union minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi, holding parleys with the BJP.

In gains in West Bengal, Trinamool Congress MP Anupam Hazra also joined the BJP Tuesday, as did Congress MLA Dulal Chandra Bar and Communist Party of India (Marxist) MLA Khagen Murmu.

Also read: Modi way or highway: Why the Congress troika needs to match PM’s hunger for power

Thought-out strategy

The BJP claims this isn’t just an arbitrary show of political one-upmanship but a more planned structure.

“The idea is to demoralise the Congress, especially its workers. It also helps us push the narrative of BJP being a more bankable party, which is why Congress leaders are joining it. This also sends out a signal to voters,” said the above mentioned source who did not wish to be identified.

The party, which is bidding for a second term in power at the Centre under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is going into the polls battling anti-incumbency, criticism on fronts such as job losses and rural distress, as well as an opposition attempting to form strong alliances against it.

With election dates now declared, the party is aware it needs to do all it can to turn the narrative and optics in its favour, while plugging its own gaps.

“This is a mind-game, in which we want to beat the Congress. In the run-up to an election as crucial as this, optics matter and what also matters is the morale and strength of a party,” said another well-placed source in the BJP on condition of anonymity.

“Several leaders quitting the Congress to join us helps us stay ahead in the mind-game,” said the second source.

The party is also looking to strengthen itself politically and electorally through its new joinees.

“We are also trying to plug our own gaps. For instance, we have a weak sitting MP (Dilip Gandhi) in Ahmednagar. Sujay Vikhe Patil is a strong leader there and it would help us significantly in the Lok Sabha polls,” said the second source.

“In Gujarat as well, the MLAs who have joined bring an electoral and political plus point to the table. Take Jawahar Chavda, for instance, who is a strong MLA from Manavadar seat in Junagadh. That is a region in which we performed very poorly in the 2017 elections,” added the second source.

Also read: Why 2019 Lok Sabha election schedule could mean advantage BJP


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  1. Is it a ‘mind game’ or the ‘money game’ by the party with a difference that pretends to be holier than thou or explains all its action by saying Congress did it?

  2. Sujay Vikhe Patil is as blue blooded a dynast as Parth Pawar is. It should have been possible to adjust and accommodate one powerful family’s sense of entitlement within the 26 – 22 formula the Congress and the NCP have agreed upon. All politics is local and there is a long history between these two families, true, but this is not a good outcome.

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