The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Gujarat has had a good two years, but the last two weeks have been tough. Twelve of its 27 corporates from February 2021’s urban local body elections joined the BJP. Two more were suspended for anti-party behavior, bringing the total to 15—less than half of its elected strength.
AAP state president Isudan Gadhvi alleged each councillor was promised Rs 50 lakh to join the BJP. “The BJP is so scared of AAP’s organic growth in the state that it is using every method to break the party,” Gadhvi added.
Twelve of the 27 AAP councillors elected in February 2021 are now saffron.
AAP spokesperson Yogesh Jadwani from Surat said his party’s tough “no-corruption” stance has caused defections. Our corporators cannot engage in corruption. They make Rs 14,000 alone. The BJP’s intermediaries first enticed our corporators with a more affluent lifestyle. Most resisted for long. Harassment, blackmail, and torture now rule. “Most joined under pressure,” says Jadwani.
The BJP is also present at every level in the state, from panchayats and talukas to cooperative societies and banks. “These corporators’ wards weren’t developing. “They felt their political career could be stunted if they didn’t join the BJP,” says Jadwani.
AAP hoped to win heavily in December 2022 assembly elections. Instead, the third challenger party won five seats in the 182-member legislature, while the Congress won 17 and the BJP swept with 156.
AAP claims they were enticed, intimidated, and blackmailed into switching allegiance.
Surat’s four seats—Kamrej, Katargam, Varachha Road, and Karanj—looked promising for AAP. 10 of Surat’s 18 seats had AAP first runners-up. AAP workers and leaders have struggled to accept their failure to gain any seats after an energetic, high-pitch campaign that looked to have widespread popular support.
AAP was regarded seriously after its February 2021 victory in the Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC). Local supporters of PAAS (Patidar Anamat Aandolan Samiti), headed by fiery politician and now BJP MLA Hardik Patel in 2015, helped win the SMC election. Surat’s 13 seats have 35% Patidar voters. PAAS ex-member Gopal Italia was AAP state president. In 2021, young Patidar leader Alpesh Kathiria and his followers, with community clout, supported Italia without joining AAP. After 27 councillors won, PAAS youth joined AAP and ran in the 2022 assembly elections.
AAP councillors are defecting as Gadhvi builds the party’s booth-level foundation. AAP leaders expect morale to improve after the defections. 45,000 of Gujarat’s 54,000 booths have at least five volunteers and staff. Lok Sabha in-charges have begun grassroots activity. “Zone-level appointments are close,” adds Jadwani.
BJP symbols include Surat and Navsari. Surat is part of state BJP president C.R. Paatil’s Navsari constituency. State minister for home Harsh Sanghavi won Majura with 81.97 percent. The first runner-up was AAP’s P.V. Sarma with 10.24%.
Sanghavi welcomed the turncoat corporators into the BJP, signaling to the other 13 AAP corporators that ‘brighter’ opportunities awaited them in the BJP.