By Parth Gupta
After a marginal win in the Gujarat state elections, it has been a rough 10 days for the Vijay Rupani government. While young opposition leaders Jignesh Mevani, Alpesh Thakor and Hardik Patel continue to threaten the government, members of the governing party are causing much greater trouble.
After Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel created a stir by claiming that his cabinet portfolio did not match his political status, Gujarat Koli Community veteran Parshottam Solanki also asked Chief Minister Vijay Rupani on Tuesday to give him a ‘better’, and then ‘more than one’ Cabinet-status positions. Solanki claimed that he deserves a greater position and that the government’s action of undervaluing his role “hurt the sentiments” of the Koli community he represents. “I won Assembly election from Bhavnagar Rural and it has been the fifth time I have achieved the feat. Yet, I have not been given responsibilities befitting my stature. MLAs with much less experience have got more departments than me,” he added.
Parshottam Solanki claims the Kolis are behind him
Solanki, 56, currently holds the Ministry of State (MoS) for fisheries, a department he has handled several times in the past. He claims that the position gives him little scope to help the Kolis. “With the fisheries department, I can only work for Kolis who live along the coast. There are many Kolis spread across Rajkot, Ahmedabad, Surat and other places. How will I work for them?” However, Parshottam Solanki is also facing a corruption case involving fishing contracts worth Rs 400 crore that was awarded to him during his previous term.
Two days after the government acceded to Nitin Patel, that he be given the finance department, Solanki went to the Chief Minister’s Office to express his displeasure at the appointment. However, according to Solanki, Vijay Rupani did not spare much time for him and merely said that he would give a decision about the matter in three days.
When asked to comment on the course of action he will take, Solanki said: “I will go to the Koli community members and leaders to seek their guidance. BJP needs to reassess my standing, particularly after I won the election by a huge margin. I am fit for more responsibilities.” Solanki even attacked the Rupani directly, “The Chief Minister himself keeps 12 portfolios, some first-time ministers have three to four good portfolios, but I have only one and that too a negligible one.”
The political costs
Parshottam Solanki threatened that, if the situation were not resolved, the Kolis would demonstrate their unhappiness with his treatment during the 2019 Lok Sabha election. His statements are already creating ripples in the political circles. Senior minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama rushed to meet Solanki at his office after the incendiary comments. “Parshottambhai is not unhappy. He has put forward his point, and the CM has told him that we will think over it… His intentions are not to put the government in jeopardy,” Chudasama said after meeting Parshottam Solanki.
Solanki represents the Bhavnagar (Rural) Assembly seat in Bhavnagar district and is known there as a strong leader for the Koli community. Kolis have a population of 75 lakh and make up about 26% of the population in the key Saurashtra region. They can easily influence the outcome in 20 Assembly and 10 Lok Sabha seats. With the 2019 General Elections less than 18 months away, BJP would like to keep its Koli vote intact.
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