Kheda flogging: A BJP MLA lately in the news among those named

Matar BJP MLA Kesarisinh Solanki, whose name has come up in the context of the flogging of some Muslims accused of disturbance at a garba in Kheda, is a two-time MLA with not so much a political base as a newly developed reputation of finding himself on the wrong side of the law.

At least five men who were flogged have accused Solanki, 41, of instigating the police to beat them in public, after first provoking violence by ensuring that garba celebrations in Undhela village of Kheda were held at a chowk facing a masjid on October 3. For this “conspiracy”, Solanki is named alongside the village sarpanch and a BJP taluka panchayat member. The flogged men have also named 15 police personnel for beating at least nine of them in public before making an arrest.

In their complaint, they have said Solanki arrived in Undhela during the violence and instructed the villagers to “set these people (Muslims) straight”.

The Undhela incident happened just two days after Solanki got an acquittal from a Sessions Court in a gambling case of July 2021. In May, a trial court had sentenced the MLA and 25 others for gambling, following a police raid at a resort in Shivrajpur village.

Quoting religious texts, the trial court had specially commented on the involvement of Solanki, identified as Accused No. 18. “an MLA… (he) has the responsibility of representing the people through his actions. It is his responsibility to ensure that such criminal acts do not occur in society… He has the responsibility of giving out an inspiring message to society… But ironically, Accused No. 18 was present in Jimiri resort to participate in the act of gambling with other accused… His act has caused damage to the honour of the position that he holds.”

The Sessions Court’s acquittal of Solanki was based on the fact that depositions of the police witnesses were “mere stereotype”.

A farmer who dropped out of school after Class 10, Solanki had no electoral experience and barely any record of organisational work in the party when he got the BJP ticket to contest from Matar in a bypoll in 2014. Leaders in the BJP Kheda district unit say it was his closeness to Devusinh Chauhan, a Union Minister of State, that helped him snag that nomination.

A BJP district leader said: “Devusinhji had to vacate his seat as Matar MLA when he won the Lok Sabha election in 2014. Thereafter, his close aide Kesrisinh (Solanki) contested the bypoll held in October 2014 and won. The party repeated him in 2017.”

In February this year, Solanki was elected as the president of the Kheda District Cooperative Bank, when the BJP won nine of the 17 contested seats to wrest the cooperative from the Congress for the first time, having won four seats already uncontested.

More recently, Solanki was at the heart of the sudden decision by the Bhupendra Patel government to strip two ministers of some of their portfolios. The Revenue portfolio was taken from Rajendra Trivedi days after he made a “surprise” visit to Matar mamlatdar office, and arrived to a “welcome” by Solanki and supporters. An apparently irked Tiwari said he visited the office after complaints of bogus land records and found many “malpractices”. Just days later, he was downsized, purportedly after local leaders of the BJP complained against Trivedi’s alleged “raids on camera” in the jurisdiction of other leaders.

Senior BJP leaders said the acquittal in the gambling case had come at just the right time for Solanki. “The chances of him being repeated are fair as he continues to enjoy the support of Devusinh Chauhan and has been an active worker for the Union MoS,” a leader said.

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