"Join BJP? Will Ask People": Gujarat MLA Who Won On AAP Ticket

Bhupat Bhayani said, "I have not joined the BJP... I will ask the people if I should join the BJP or not".

Arvind Kejriwal's AAP was eyeing a big entry into the Gujarat political landscape


Aam Aadmi Party's below-par performance in Gujarat has had a section of its MLAs looking to the BJP, sources have said. One of them, Bhupat Bhayani, has denied that he is officially looking out. But in a marked doublespeak, Mr Bhayani told NDTV that he would take the "opinion of the people" in this matter.

The remark flies in the face of AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal's assertion that "none of my diamonds are for sale," indicating that the leaders he is fielding would not change camp. 

"I have not joined the BJP... I will ask the people if I should join the BJP or not," Mr Bhayani said in an exclusive interview to NDTV today. The reason, he said, was that the Opposition's low score has made it weak and as an MLA, and sitting on the opposition benches will not enable him to do anything for the people who voted for him.

"My seat is in an area dominated by farmers. I need to solve their irrigation-related problems. There are many traders in the area as well. I need to look after them too. I'll not be able to do that if I do not have good connections with the government. I have placed my demands before the government have got a positive response. I'll now consult the people, the leaders," he added.

"The people of Gujarat have given a record mandate to Narendra Modi and the BJP. I respect that... I was earlier with the BJP and have good relations with the leaders," underscored the leader.

Mr Bhayani, who was earlier with the BJP, had turned rebel and joined AAP. He, however, attributed his victory from Junagadh district's Visavadar constituency to his work done as a BJP MLA. "The people know me," he added.

Asked about the possibility of the anti-defection law coming into play, Mr Bhayani brushed it off. "India is a democratic country and it is my right to work for the people," he said.

Sources indicated that three Independent MLAs from Bayad, Dhanera and Vaghodia are also likely to support the BJP, which won a seventh term in the state with a landslide victory.

Fuelled by 30-plus rallies by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and an exhaustive campaign plan by its chief strategist Amit Shah, the BJP won 156 of the state's 182 seats, with an astounding 53 per cent vote share.

The Congress -- which gave the BJP a scare in 2017 with 77 seats and confined the party to only 99 -- won only 17 seats this time.

AAP, having conducted a visible and vocal campaign, managed to win only five seats. Its key leaders in the state, state president Gopal Italia, Patidar leader Alpesh Kathiriya and chief ministerial face Isudan Gadhvi have all lost.

On the upside, it secured 12.3 per cent vote share, nearly double the amount needed -- at the cost of the Congress -- and was named a national party.

AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal, who had predicted that his party will over 90 seats, has promised to win the state "next time".

"Gujarat is considered (to be a) BJP stronghold. We have polled around 13 per cent votes. There are so many people who have trusted us, voted for us for the first time. This time, we breached the fortress and next time, with your blessings, we will win it," he has said.

AAP plans to contest in most of the states going to polls next year, including Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.