Dissenting Gujarat minister Solanki falls in line, takes oath as legislator

Dissenting Gujarat minister Solanki falls in line, takes oath as legislator

Dissenting Gujarat minister Solanki falls in line, takes oath as legislator

Gujarat's minister of state for fisheries in Vijay Rupani government, Purushottam Solanki, finally took oath as legislator on Wednesday, almost two months after his election. He had been   dissenting against denial of a Cabinet berth.

Solanki, a five-time legislator, like deputy chief minister Nitin Patel had expressed displeasure over not being given Cabinet rank and refused to attend Cabinet meetings since January.

He also did not take oath of office as a legislator along with the other elected legislators of the 14th Gujarat Legislative Assembly in January.

The move by this strongman from Koli community, that has sizeable influence on almost one-fourth of the 182 Assembly constituencies in the state, could come in as a breather for the ruling party that is gearing up for elections to local self-government bodies in part of the state. Solanki, who has been representing Bhavnagar (rural) constituency for long, could come in handy, especially after BJP fought a tough battle to retain power in the state after a 23-year rule. In last Assembly polls, BJP saw its tally go down from 117 seats to 99 of 182 seats, even while conceding 82 seats to Opposition led by Congress.

Solanki has been miffed over being stagnated as a minister of state in-charge of fisheries department. In January, he had even hosted a gathering of a large number of supporters at his official residence in Gandhinagar to pressurise party bosses for his elevation. He had then said that with Parliamentary polls due in 2019, his community would take a call on who would they side with. This, even after senior minister in Rupani Cabinet, Bhupendrasinh Chudasama, had rushed in to pacify him.

Ministry expansion?

However, on Wednesday, Solanki appeared a different man. He not only took oath but denied any rift with party leadership. "I have no problems. Let people talk of differences between me and the party. They have been speculating about me not attending Cabinet meetings but that (dissidence) has never been my intention," Solanki told mediapersons soon after taking oath as legislator before pro-tem speaker Nimaben Acharya.

"The Chief Minister has given me assurance that he would look into the demands of my community getting proper representation and ministry in a month or two. So I have nothing else to say," Solanki added, hinting at possible expansion of Rupani ministry or change in portfolios going forward.

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