Congress MLA Rathwa quits party, joins BJP ahead of Gujarat polls

Mohan Rathwa

In advance of the state Assembly elections in Gujarat, Congress MLA Mohan Rathwa on Tuesday defected from the grand old party and joined the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Except for the 2002 election, when the BJP won 127 seats under the direction of then-chief minister Narendra Modi, Rathwa, 78, has served as a legislator for around 55 years and has never lost an election.

Rathwa informed Jagdish Thakor, the leader of the Gujarat Congress, of his decision to quit in a letter.

Speaking to the reporters at the BJP office in Ahmedabad, Rathwa claimed he had no issue with any Congress members and had joined the party because of the work it has done for the state’s tribal community.

Rathwa has eleven times run for a tribally reserved seat in the Chhota Udaipur (Scheduled Tribes, or ST) district.

Of the 27 seats set up for ST candidates, Congress took 15 of them in 2017. Nine seats were won by the BJP, two by the Bharatiya Tribal Party, and one by an independent candidate.

Making his stand clear, Rathwa said he is not interested in contesting elections from any party.

“I have no issues with anyone. The talks that I have been denied a ticket by Congress and hence I quit the party are not true. I have joined BJP with my two sons and supporters as I want my next generation to work for people’s development,” he said.

He said that he was impressed by the work done by the Modi-led Central government in tribal areas of the state and the country. “…That is the reason why I have decided to join BJP,” he said in a statement to the media.

On whether the BJP would give his son a ticket to contest the election, the MLA said he is “100%” sure, according to news agency PTI.

Elections in Gujarat are set for December 1 and December 5, with counting taking place on December 8.