AHMEDABAD: The Jasdan Assembly bypoll in Gujarat were necessitated after five-time MLA Kunvarji Bavaliya who won on a Congress ticket, switched sides and joined the ruling BJP. The elections on December 20 will determine if it is the Congress which enjoys the backing of the numerically strong Koli community in the area or will the voters sway in favour of the BJP which is being represented by Bavaliya.
Bavaliya, who is a Cabinet Minister in the state is facing a fight from Congress candidate Avsar Nakiya. The seat has been a pocket borough of Bavaliya, a prominent leader of the OBC Koli community, who has been elected from the seat five times in the past on a Congress ticket. What is interesting is that he kept winning the seat even when Narendra Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat. Bavaliya is also a one-term MP.
The Jasdan constituency, located in Rajkot district, has a considerable 35 per cent Koli voters. The Koli community dominates in 15 to 18 Assembly segments in Saurashtra area of Gujarat.
The byelection has become a prestige battle for the Congress as well as the BJP. While the BJP is pinning hopes on Kolis to rally behind it in support of their leader, the Congress is hoping for the support of the community for the party despite Bavaliya's exit.
Gujarat Congress president Amit Chavda, Leader of Opposition Paresh Dhanani and several BJP state ministers and leaders have been camping in Jasdan ahead of the bypoll. "The Koli community has been with the Congress and will remain with it. People of Gujarat will never tolerate a deserter like Kunvarji Bavaliya," Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi said.
"This is a prestige battle and the Congress will win it on the basis of high moral ground. This is a fight between a betrayer and a party loyalist," he said.
Congress nominee Avsar Nakiya, who was once a protege of Bavaliya and also hails from the Koli community, expressed confidence of winning the bypoll. "For the people of Jasdan, party is above person and I am going to win here," Nakiya said.
However, Bavaliya said the people of Jasdan had been electing him and "not the Congress party". "I will win this byelection with a thumping majority," he said. Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani also expressed confidence that the BJP will win the bypoll.
The counting of votes for the bypoll will be held on December 23.