Once Favourite of Congress, He’s Now BJP’s Cho­sen One

The Economic Times - - Pure Politics -

Gand­hi­na­gar: From selling tea in an hand­cart to be­com­ing one of the largest ed­i­ble oil ty­coon and the sur prise third can­di­date for Ra­jya Sabha f r o m B J P, Bal­wantsinh Ra­jput’s surely is a rags to riches story. On July 28, for mer Gu­jarat Congress chief whip Ra­jput, the owner of Gokul Group, de­clared his mov­able as­set to be worth Rs254 crore while fil­ing his nom­i­na­tion. But the jour­ney to this riches had started from a hand­cart selling bee­tle nut and cig­a­rettes.

“The hand­cart is still pre­served be­fore my of­fice in Sid­dh­pur to re­mind me where I came from,” Ra­jput told ET.

Ra­jput (56) started work­ing with his fa­ther Chan­dansinh Ra­jput on his hand­cart af­ter his fa­ther lost job fol­low­ing the clo­sure of an oil mill in Sid­dh­pur. “In 1972 floods, our en­tire house was washed away and we did not even had an ex­tra pair of clothes to wear,” Ra­jput re­counted. While he couldn’t make much head­way with ed­u­ca­tion, sources say that his fa­ther once sent him to Gand­hi­na­gar to meet the then chief min­is­ter Mad­havs­inh Solanki, a fel­low ksha­triya to seek a job. Solanki those days was known to have open doors for the peo­ple in his of­fice.

But as luck would have it, Ra­jput ran into an­other Congress heavy­weight of the time Jin­ab­hai Darji, who with his rus­tic grip over the ru­ral Gu­jarat ad­vised Ra­jput to start a fair price shop from his two-room house and got him req­ui­site li­cense.

His busi­ness soon got him in touch with some in­flu­en­tial peo­ple in­clud­ing Suren­dra Ra­jput, a vet­eran Congress leader, which ig­nited Ra­jput’s po­lit­i­cal am­bi­tions. Mean­while, he also for­ayed into ed­i­ble oil busi­ness and set up Gokul oil.

“I have seen harsh days,” Ra­jput said. “In late 70s, we had to sleep on the pave­ments of a hos­pi­tal when my sis­ter fell ill and those ex­pe­ri­ences are hard to for­get,” he added.

Over the years, Ra­jput’s mus­cle grew both in terms of pol­i­tics and fi­nance and in 2002, at the height of saf­fron wave in Gu­jarat, he de­feated the only suave and eru­dite face of BJP in Gu­jarat Dr Jay Narayan Vyas in his home con­stituency of Sid­dh­pur when most of t he Congress can­di­dates were re­luc­tant to con­test elec­tion. While he lost the seat in 2007, BJP’s in­tra-party fac­tion­al­ism saw the seat re­vert­ing to him in 2012. His prow­ess also made him a favourite of the Congress High Com­mand in Delhi. Con­gress­men s ay that Ahmed Pa­tel had a ma­jor role in aug­ment­ing his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer. “It was ba­si­cally Ahmedb­hai (Pa­tel) who en­hanced his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer all along,” said se­nior Congress leader Ar­jun Mod­va­dia. “From giv­ing him tick­ets to mak­ing him the chief whip, it was all done be­cause of Ahmedb­hai, who also ex­tended his help for his fam­ily from time to time,” he added. “It is in­deed an irony that Bal­wantb­hai to­day is chal­leng­ing Ahmedb­hai for BJP, the party he stood against all along,” Mod­va­dia added fur­ther.

Ra­jput, how­ever, blamed it all on the g row­ing f ac­tion­al­ism in Congress. “I have been in the party for 35 years, but since last 12 months the in­fight­ing was get­ting un­bear­able,” Ra­jput said. “I had pointed out to the party that the cli­mate across the state was great to give a tough fight to BJP and we need to work to­gether. Bharatsinh Son­alki and Bapu (Shankersinh Vaghela, who shares close fam­ily re­la­tion with Ra­jput) need to come to­gether and was even ready to me­di­ate. But I was be­ing ha­rassed. Every al­ter­nate day a story or an­other would come up in­sin­u­at­ing me and even my meet­ing Bapu, who is a rel­a­tive, raised eye brows. I had no choice af­ter that,” he added.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.