Five former Congress MLAs from Gujarat, out of the total eight who had resigned recently as legislators  before the Rajya Sabha elections, formally joined the Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) on Saturday.

BJP’s state unit president Jitu Vaghani and other senior leaders welcomed  former Congress MLAs Jitu Chaudhary, Pradyumnasinh Jadeja, J V Kakadiya, Akshay Patel and Brijesh Merja in the party.

Of these five former MLAs, Patel, Merja and Chaudhary had resigned as legislators earlier this month, soon after the Election Commission announced June 19 as the new date for the Rajya Sabha election in the state.

Kakadiya and Jadeja had resigned as MLAs in March. As per the earlier schedule, the Rajya Sabha election in Gujarat was supposed to be held on March 26. However, it was postponed due to the coronavirus-induced nationwide lockdown.

Vaghani welcomed the 5 MLAs in BJP said that their presence would strengthen the party at the local level. He also expressed confidence that the BJP would win the by-elections to the constituencies, which have fallen vacant due to their resignations.

According to the BJP Gujarat chief, these MLAs quit the Congress due to internal factionalism and lack of leadership in the opposition party.

“Congress MLAs have resigned and joined the BJP in Gujarat not once but several times in the past. If Congress continues to blame the BJP despite this happening repeatedly, then I would ask that party to shut its shop in Gujarat,” he said.

He put the blame on the Congress leadership and said, “Congress lacks leadership and is beset with internal factionalism. The party itself is responsible for the resignations of its MLAs.”

Three other former MLAs, who had resigned from the Congress in March, are Soma Patel, Pravin Maru, and Mangal Gavit. Vaghani said that these three former MLAs were also welcome to join the BJP.

Three BJP candidates and a Congress nominee were elected in the election to the Upper House of Parliament from Gujarat. The resignation of the Congress MLAs ahead of last week’s Rajya Sabha election for four seats was crucial for the ruling BJP to win three seats, while only one Congress nominee won the election.

The Congress which won 77 seats in the 2017 Assembly elections in Gujarat, has been reduced to 65 seats after 12 MLAs resigned over the years, many of whom joined the ruling BJP.