Kunvarji Bavaliya won the Jasdan by-polls comfortably, beating his former party mate and Congress candidate, Avchar Nakiya with a margin of 19,979 votes. This was a battle of prestige for Kunvarji Bavaliya, who had quit the Congress in July this year and joined the BJP.
The BJP immediately rewarded his decision by giving him a cabinet berth and three portfolios- water resources, animal husbandry and rural housing development.
However, after the Grand Old Party won Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chattisgarh in the Hindi heartland, speculations were rife that Bavaliya could lose Jasdan.
The BJP and the Congress both battled hard to claim Jasdan as their bastion, with the former publicising Bavaliya’s cabinet position and the latter talking about Bavaliya’s betrayal.
BJP Hits a Century in Gujarat Assembly
The win in Jasdan has taken BJP’s tally in the Gujarat Assembly to 100 while the Congress is down by one seat, at 76. At the end of the counting of votes, Bavaliya secured a total 90,262 votes as against Nakiya’s 70,283, the officials said.
A total 2,146 votes were cast as NOTA, they said. Polling for the Jasdan Assembly seat was held on December 20 and a voter turnout of 71.27 per cent was recorded.
Kunvarji Bavaliya is a seasoned politician who belongs to the strong Koli Community. In fact he has never lost the Jasdan seat having won it for five times in 1995, 1998, 2002, 2007, 2017.
He was also elected as Lok Sabha MP from Rajkot in 2009 during the UPA regime. The only time BJP won Jasdan the seat was during the 2009 by-polls.
Jasdan is Bavaliya’s Fortress
“I would like to thank all those who worked for me in the past in while I was in Congress and my present team in BJP. This victory is dedicated to the grassroots level party workers. I promise the voters that the water woes they face, especially when it comes to drinking and irrigation will be addressed. We will ensure that everyone in Jasdan develops fully. Now we are focused on winning all 26 seats in the upcoming General Elections.”Kunvarji Bavaliya, MLA Jasdan & Gujarat Cabinet Minister
In 2017, the BJP attempted to bring Jasdan under its canopy, but failed. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had held a huge rally in Jasdan to convert the Congress vote bank. However, the turnout at the rally was poor and Bavaliya won the elections with a margin of 9,277 votes, defeating BJP candidate Dr Bharat Bhogra.
Bavaliya had secured 84,321 votes of the total 1,69,215 in the 2017 assembly elections- a vote share of 49.83 per cent. In the by-polls Bavaliya secured 90,262 votes of the total 1,65,325 votes- a vote share of 54 per cent.
Bavaliya who has always been a Congress loyalist, decided to quit the Grand Old Party in July this year after he publicly criticised Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s management of Gujarat Congress. He resigned from the Assembly as well.
Thus, began the battle to decide once and for whether Jasdan is a Congress Bastion or Bavaliya’s fortress. It turned out to be the latter, as today’s result shows.
Congress Fails to Woo Koli Voters
Avchar Nakia, a local Koli strongman was the best bet for Congress against Bavaliya in the elections. Jasdan was traditionally a Congress seat with a significant Koli population and is an important seat keeping the 2019 General Elections in mind.
As the Koli community dominates the Saurashtra belt, it became imperative for both parties to win Jasdan and thereby stake claim to the support of the Koli community. However, Congress candidate Avchar Nakia’s campaigning was based on peddling Kunvarji Bavaliya’s betrayal and the grand old party’s victories in three states.
Meanwhile Bavaliya was keen on positioning himself as the first ever cabinet minister from Jasdan, who was handpicked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to consolidate the BJP in Saurashtra.
Gujarat Congress Spokesperson Manish Doshi spoke to the press and said, “Avcharbhai is a common man who hails from a simple family and we are thankful to the voters who voted for him.”