Gandhinagar, Feb 26: The Gujarat Congress received a major setback on Monday when two of its MLAs, Vitthal Radadiya and his son Jayesh, quit their state assembly membership. The duo is set to join the BJP, which had won the December elections handsomely under the leadership of Narendra Modi. The twin resignations also reduced the Congress's tally to 57 in the state assembly.
The senior Radadiya, who was elected from Dhoraji, is a heavyweight in the cooperative sector and he recently made it to the headlines by brandishing a rifle at a toll plaza personnel.
The former MP from Porbandar has accused the Congress of indulging in negative politics in the state and hence decided to quit. He and Jayesh, who was elected from Jetpur, submitted their resignation to Speaker Viju Vala on moral grounds. BJP co-operative sector leader and the state agricultural minister Dileep Sanghani accompanied them.
The senior Radadiya accused the UPA government at the Centre of indulging in endless scams and also being partial to Gujarat as far as encouraging the state's development is concerned. He said he had approached the central government as an MP many times on issues related to the state's interest but all his efforts went in vain.
Congress Legislative Party (CLP) leader in the state assembly Shankersinh Veghela, however, refused to acknowledge that the dual resignations would affect the party's prospects. He said the party did not even persuade the Radadiyas to change their mind.
Chairman of the state Congress's disciplinary committee Baalunhai Patel even said that the two had been suspended from the party for six years after reports said that they were planning to join the BJP.
The BJP won 115 seats in the December election while the Congress bagged 61 seats. But the death of Morva Hadaf MLA Savita Vachet and the resignation of Limbdi MLA Soma Patel to retain the Surendranagar MP seat brought down the latter's tally to 59. The Nationalist Congress Party and the Gujarat Parivartan Party have two seats each. The JD(U) has one seat.
BJP sources said Jayesh might contest the Jetpur by-election on a BJP ticket while Vithal could contest for Porbandar Lok Sabha seat in 2014. The latter had resigned from Porbandar after winning from Dhoraji assembly seat. A close aide of Vaghela, Vithal was a strongman for the party in the Saurashtra region where the BJP has a strong presence.
For the Congress, Radadiya's exit following the loss of state chief Arjun Modhwadia and former CLP leader Shaktisinh Gohil would be a fresh blow in this politically key region.