Who Will Lead the Opposition Bench in the Gujarat Assembly?
Yet again the BJP retained power in Gujarat after 22 years of rule, albeit with a narrow margin. However, a victory is a victory and the saffron party savoured the win while licking its wounds, having lost key seats to the Congress. The Congress, on the other hand, for the first time, seem to have formed a strong opposition.
In fact, this time, the face of the opposition in the Gujarat Assembly could well be young and bold, as the vanguards of the grand old party in Gujarat perished in the recently concluded elections. Besides, it is the first time since 1975 that the poll results have been so close that it has empowered the opposition in the Gujarat Assembly.
Old Guard Decimated
For the Congress, the 2017 elections were marked by renewed energy, injected by the newly appointed party president Rahul Gandhi, who relentlessly campaigned right in PM Modi’s den and won hearts. His campaign, however, could not save the stalwarts of Congress who had been holding fort at the opposition bench in the Assembly.
These include veterans Shaktisinh Gohil, Arjun Modhwadia, Siddharth Patel and Tushar Chaudhary. With the stalwarts now gone, the party will turn to the new crop of MLAs who have exceeded expectations this election season – one of the following will probably be given the title of leader of the opposition in the Gujarat State Assembly.
Amreli district sprung a surprise on both the BJP and the Congress, as the latter claimed the seat thanks to a fierce campaigning led by Paresh Dhanani. Dhanani has been quite vociferous in the Gujarat Assembly over the last few years and is also in the good books of party president Rahul Gandhi. The 41-year-old could well be the first choice of the grand old party to lead its opposition bench against BJP in the Gujarat Assembly.
Although Alpesh Thakor is an outsider who only joined the party before the elections, his impact on the Congress’ position in the Assembly cannot be understated. Alpesh has been in the news for his drive against illegal hooch and the pro-prohibition agenda, and at the same time, he had started the OBC Ekta Manch as a reply to Hardik’s Patidar agitation. His victory in Radhanpur has secured his legacy in the Congress party, which hopes to reap its benefits in the upcoming Assembly session in 2018.
The sitting MLA from Danilimda constituency in Ahmedabad, Shailesh Parmar, once again won the elections after defeating BJP’s Jitu Vaghela by a comfortable margin. The 37-year-old has shone for the party with back-to-back wins in consecutive Assembly polls, which cements his place as one of the top contenders for leader of the opposition in the Assembly.
In the closely contested Chhota Udepur seat, Mohan Rathwa kept the Congress flag flying with a narrow margin of 1,093 votes. As the Congress may seek an experienced hand in the Assembly, it could turn to 72-year-old Rathwa to lead the opposition in Gujarat.
The Quint had reported in its Gujarat poll coverage on how PM Modi’s rally in Jasdan saw a poor showing from the public. That seat has now gone to Kunwarji Bavaliya, who was contesting against a former Congress leader who later defected to the BJP. It is said that the 62-year-old’s influence led to the poor showing in PM Modi’s rally and could well be appreciated by the grand old party – and they might show their appreciation by appointing him leader of the opposition in the Gujarat Assembly.
Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee President Bharatsinh Solanki told The Quint:
The final call will be taken by the party high command after having a meeting with the victorious MLAs of the party. For now, a few names have been shortlisted. These include Paresh Dhanani, Kunwarji Bawariya, Shailesh Parmar among others. The name of the leader of the opposition will be declared in a matter of days.Bharatsinh Solanki, Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee President