Foxed by high turnout, BJP hunts for turncoats

Kandhal Jadeja
Despite exit polls predicting a victory for it, party eyes non-Cong candidates who are likely to win.

Despite exit polls predicting a clean sweep for BJP in the just-concluded Assembly polls in Gujarat, the ruling party, it is learnt, is taking no chances and is busy reaching out to non-Congress candidates who are likely to win, especially from NCP and GPP, besides a few Independents.

Exit polls by various private agencies on Monday had pegged BJP's likely tally between 120 and 140.

After voting on Monday, Chief Minister Narendra Modi spent the entire day at the state BJP headquarters in Khanpur in the company of top BJP leaders like L K Advani and Arun Jaitley, besides national spokesperson Nirmala Seetharaman and others.

They are learnt to have held closed-door meetings and watched the exit polls together later. Modi is not known to frequent the state BJP office.

On Tuesday, the CM was in a huddle at his residence in Gandhinagar along with top ministers like Saurabh Patel, Anandi Patel and Jaynarayan Vyas.

Sources said top state BJP leaders were talking to non-Congress candidates, including Kandhal Jadeja, late "Godmother" Santokben Jadeja's son who is the NCP candidate from Kutiyana constituency in Porbandar district.

When contacted, top GPP leader Gordhan Zadaphia told The Indian Express, "We have heard such rumours, but we are in constant touch with our prospective winners."

"Why did Modi spend eight hours at BJP office? He could have called Advaniji home. This is because they are not sure of getting 100 seats," he added.

Asked if the GPP would ally or merge with the BJP, Zadaphia said, "The question does not arise because the people voted us against the BJP."

Asked if GPP would ally with Congress, Zadaphia said, "I do not know. Let the results come." A top Congress leader based in Delhi who camped here said, "We will certainly improve our tally."

Neither Jadeja nor Gujarat NCP chief Jayant Patel could be reached. The two-phase Gujarat Assembly elections that got over on Monday saw a record 71 per cent voting. The counting of votes is scheduled for December 20.

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