Ahmedabad: Emboldened by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership capitulating under pressure from Gujarat’s deputy chief minister Nitin Patel, yet another powerful caste leader from the Saurashtra region, Parshottam Solanki, has demanded that he be elevated to a cabinet rank from his current minister of state status.
After Patidar leader Patel succeeded in securing the “prestigious” finance portfolio, Solanki, an influential leader from the Koli community, demanded that he be given charge of more departments, in addition to the higher rank, as he has won five successive assembly elections, warning that the BJP will face to suffer adverse consequences in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections if his demand is not met.
The Koli community, which accounts for around 26 percent of the population of the peninsular Saurashtra region and wields considerable influence in Gujarat’s coastal districts, is largely responsible for Solanki winning five elections in a row, from the Bhavnagar Rural seat in 2017 and 2012 and thrice from the erstwhile Ghogho seat prior to that.
“My community feels that since I am the only one (from the Koli community) in the government, I should be given a respectable position. While the chief minister keeps 12 portfolios (and) some first-time ministers have three-four good portfolios, I have only one and that too an insignificant one—fisheries,” Solanki said.
In response to the demand, the BJP’s high command has drafted senior minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama to assuage Solanki. Chudasama had played crucial role in appeasing Patel.
“He is not angry at all with the party. He is a senior leader and has only expressed is community’s sentiments to the chief minister. This does not mean that there is a crisis in the party,” Chudasama, flanked by Solanki, said on Tuesday.
“I have been given a single department of fisheries unlike the last four times when I was also given animal husbandry. Looking at the population of Kolis across the state, what do I do with one ministry? I obviously don’t feel like going to office,” Solanki said. “The people of my community want the government to do something about it. I should be given other portfolios, too. I met chief minister Vijay Rupani today (Tuesday), but as his chamber was crowded, we could not talk on the issue freely.”