Ahmedabad: In a prize catch for BJP, Narhari Amin, a former Gujarat deputy chief minister, who recently quit the Congress after being denied ticket to contest the assembly elections, joined the state's ruling party on Thursday.
Amin's entry into the BJP is expected to boost its prospects in the Saurashtra region where renegade saffron party leader and former chief minister Keshubhai Patel's newly launched Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) is putting a stiff challenge to Narendra Modi.
Like Keshubhai, Amin belongs to the politically influential Patel community, and has a sizeable following among them.
Reflecting the significance of Amin's arrival into the BJP fold, chief minister Modi, seeking a third consecutive term in office, welcomed him into the party, describing it as a move that would strengthen democracy.
"He is a leader who has remained among people to serve them since his youth. Coming of Amin to the party will strengthen democracy," Modi said.
Amin, who had been sulking ever since he was denied Congress nomination on the ground that he had lost two successive assembly elections, said, "I am sure that BJP will win this election and Modi will secure a hat-trick in the state. I will work for the BJP now."
He had quit Congress on Tuesday along with six prominent leaders including spokespersons of Gujarat Congress Jayanti Parmar and Hitesh Patel, state party general secretary Ashish Amin, farmers cell chairman Dashrath Patel, teachers cell chairman Digvijaysinh Gohil, Ahmedabad Congress vice-president RC Patel.
Another 175 of his supporters also joined BJP today with him.
Amin, among the prominent Congress faces in the state, was involved in the poll preparations right from the beginning and was present at all important events.
The former deputy chief minister said he felt "insulted" as Congress had given tickets to little known faces ignoring leaders who had worked tirelessly to build the party.
"Everything was going fine in the Congress party till ticket distribution. At the time of ticket distribution, differences between the state Congress leaders came to fore as all of them wanted tickets to be distributed to maximum number of their supporters," he said.
"The high command also ignored senior leaders and played along with the choices of state leaders. State leaders after elections did not want to have a challenger and that is why they denied ticket to me and other strong contenders who could have easily won elections," he added.
Modi, who is apparently banking on Amin to neutralize Keshubhai Patel's political clout in the Saurashtra region, said, "Congress has not only cheated people, but it has also cheated party workers by denying them tickets. It is important to defeat family-oriented politics of Congress."