The latest buzz in the political circuits of Gujarat is that three Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLAs elected in the recently concluded state assembly elections are in touch with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and might jump ship soon.
Bhupat Bhayani, AAP MLA from Visavadar seat in Junagadh district, triggered widespread speculation when he appreciated Prime Minister Narendra Modi in an interview to ABP News.
"PM Modi is the pride of India. All Gujaratis including me are proud of him. Before joining AAP, I was in the BJP. The party is like family. I will consult the people of my constituency, my supporters, and the farmers before deciding if I should go back to the party," Bhayani told the news channel on 11 December.
Later at night, Bhayani released a video message stating that he is a "loyal soldier of the AAP and has never thought of betraying it."
"There have been wrong messages about me in the media and social media. I am a loyal soldier of the AAP. People have given me a resounding victory by trusting me. I have never thought of betraying the public or the party," he said in a video shared by the party's official social media handles.
What's At Stake For AAP?
Sources close to the BJP told The Quint that along with Bhayani, two other AAP MLAs – Umesh Makwana from Botad and Sudhir Vaghani from Gariadhar – are in touch with the BJP.
Of these, Sudhir Vaghani issued a clarification on Twitter. "Stay away from false rumours. I was, am, and will remain in the AAP. I have no temptation, the voters have trusted me in the fight for change," he wrote.
The AAP won five seats and a vote share of 12.9 percent in Gujarat and this paved the way for Arvind Kejriwal's party to get a national party status which required the party to have at least two MLAs and a vote share of 6 percent.
If more than three AAP MLAs jump ship to the BJP, the party stands to lose its national party status.
As per highly placed sources in AAP, party high-command in Delhi (Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia) and Gujarat (Gopal Italia and Isudan Gadhvi) is in touch with all five legislators. "No legislator will jump ship. These are baseless rumours. Party high-command is in touch with all five MLAs. We are already preparing a roadmap for the next five years," the source said.
As per the anti-defection law, at least 4 AAP legislators -- two-third of the party strength in the Assembly -- will have to join the BJP for them to avoid suspension from the House.
It is pertinent to note that the five leaders have not yet taken oath as MLAs.
The results for 2022 Gujarat Assembly polls, conducted in two phases, were declared on 8 December. The BJP won a landslide victory with 156 seats and a vote share of 52.5 percent, whereas, the Congress party finished second with 16 seats and a vote share of 12.9 percent.