According to a party official on Saturday, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) suffered a setback in Surat, Gujarat, when six of its councillors switched allegiance to the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
In the presence of Gujarat’s Minister of State for the Interior, Harsh Sanghavi, these corporators joined the saffron party late on Friday night.
The AAP put on a strong performance in the February 2021 Surat Municipal Corporation elections and emerged as the opposition party by winning 27 seats in the 120-member civic body. The Congress failed to open its account, while the BJP won 93 seats.
Five AAP corporators had joined the BJP in February 2022, but one of them had returned to the AAP fold. Now, with six more corporators joining the ruling party, the AAP’s strength has come down to 17.
Speaking at their welcome ceremony, minister Sanghavi said, “AAP corporators resigned from their party and joined the BJP.”
He added that the true face of AAP is coming to light before the country today.
“The way AAP leaders spared nothing to defame Gujarat and people of the state, corporators of AAP joined the BJP with a pledge to develop their respective wards,” the minister told reporters.
One of these six corporators, Ruta Kheni, said that she decided to join the BJP after getting influenced by the ideology of the saffron party and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s style of functioning.
Prior to the December 2022 Assembly elections, the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP’s confidence had been boosted by its strong showing in the Surat civic body elections in 2021. Despite running for all 182 Assembly seats, it only succeeded in winning five, and none of them were in Surat.
The AAP’s state affiliate claimed that its council members were being threatened and lured into defecting to the BJP.
AAP corporator Dipti Sakariya claimed in a video statement that she was invited to a BJP minister’s home in the state capital of Gandhinagar and was given money to join the party.
“I informed our general secretary Monoj Sorathiya about what was going on. Meanwhile, the matter came out in the open after AAP corporators joined the BJP. It is sad to see the manner in which the BJP is misleading them to join the party,” she said.
Another AAP corporator Rachna Hirpara said the BJP has been trying to make AAP corporators switch sides ever since they won the election.
“Offers have been made to us ever since we won the election. BJP has been giving offers, and many corporators fell for it and took up to Rs 50 lakh to join the ruling party,” she alleged.