At a time when the BJP is trying to woo Ahirs ahead of Lok Sabha polls, disqualified Gujarat Congress MLA Bhagvan Barad, who belongs to the OBC community, accused the ruling party of targetting him in an old case, in which he has been convicted by a court. In view of a spate of defections of MLAs from the Congress camp to the BJP recently, Barad alleged the government has adopted a "threat" strategy to make Congress.MLAs switch sides.
Barad, who represented Talala seat in Gir Somnath district, was disqualified by the Legislative Assembly Speaker, days after he was convicted by a court in an illegal mining case, which handed him a jail term for two years and nine months. His conviction was later stayed by the upper court, which was set aside by the Gujarat High Court recently.
Barad has challenged his disqualification before the HC. The Election Commission has announced byelections to Talala, Manavadar, Unjha, Jamnagar Rural and Dhrangadhra seats. Except for Talala, the sitting Congress.MLAs had switched over to the BJP.
Chavda was made Cabinet minister in the Vijay Rupani government after he switched sides. Addressing a gathering of the Ahir community at Veraval, Barad said the BJP had adopted a strategy to threaten Congress.MLAs to make them join the BJP.
"They say, we will finish you if you do not join us, and will bathe you in milk if you do," he said. Barad alleged that the BJP government targetted him by appointing a special public prosecutor in court. Congress.MLAs from Ahir community, Vikram Madam and Amrish Der also joined Barad in his show of strength. Barad reiterated that the speaker had no right to disqualify him.
"Only people from my community have the right to punish me if I have done anything wrong," he said, adding that the government "conspired" to remove him as an MLA. Ahirs or cow herders have a sizable presence in the Saurashtra-Kutch region, especially in Jamnagar, Gir-Somnath, Amreli, Junagadh and Kutch. The Congress has projected Barad's disqualification, as the BJP's attempt to weaken the Ahir community.
(With inputs from agencies.)