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‘Visibly tired’ Rupani faints during election gathering in Vadodara

Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, who was in Vadodara on Sunday to campaign for the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) elections, fell unconscious at the third venue of his rally, while addressing the gathering.

BJP leader and former mayor of Vadodara, Dr Jigeesha Seth, rushed to Rupani’s aid and helped stablise him, while a medical team rushed him to UN Mehta Hospital in Ahmedabad from Vadodara airport.

Rupani was at the third and final rally venue for the day in Nizampura in Vadodara, after having addressed gatherings in Tar-sali and Sangam areas when he collapsed.

Sunil Solanki, Vadodara BJP general secretary, said, “He was visibly tired but he had not complained of any uneasiness… He had stabilised and was conscious when he left with the medical team to Ahmedabad from Vadodara airport. He will head to UN Mehta Hospital there, where he will undergo a detailed check-up. We cannot speculate on the cause of what happened.”

BJP state president CR Paatil, however, told reporters that Rupani had been running a fever for the past few days and campaigning despite requests from party leaders to take a break. Paatil told reporters, “He (Rupani) had been running a fever. We had requested him to skip the campaign and take rest but he is such a committed leader that he continued to address gatherings. The stress must have taken a toll on his health… we wish him a speedy recovery.”

Later in the day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called up Rupani to ask about his health and advised him to undergo a complete health check-up and take adequate rest, a statement from the Chief Minister’s Office said.

Gujarat BJP media convener Yagnesh Dave asked people not to pay attention to rumours. “The CM is addressing election meetings one after another. His blood pressure has possibly gone down due to tiredness and stress,” Dave said in the statement.

Earlier, at the two gatherings in Tarsali and Sangam, Rupani stressed on the BJP’s commitment to development work. Rupani began his campaign from Ward 17 in Tarsali, also covering the adjoining wards, where candidates were announced on February 5 and led to a major rebellion within the party workers of the ward. Among the four candidates fielded in Ward 17 is Shailesh Patil — a first time candidate and a relative of Surat’s Limbayat Assembly BJP MLA Sangita Patil.

Addressing the gathering, Rupani said the state government was considering a law to curb cases of “forced interfaith marriages, involving conversions”. “In the next Assembly session, the state cabinet will pass the law against love jihad. Those who indulge in coercion and religious conversion in the name of marriage and love, cannot be allowed to escape. There have been demand for the law and the state government is examining its need and importance. It is significant that Gujarat is the next state after Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Madhya Pradesh, where such a law is under discussion,” he said.

Rupani also referred to the stringent Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organised Crime (GCTOC) Act passed by the assembly recently as well as the Gujarat Land Grabbing (Prohibition) Act, 2020, which has added claws to the administration in dealing with cases of land-grabbing.

“The GCTOC is a law to break the anti-social elements. Either they must surrender and end criminal acts or they must leave Gujarat. We are also dealing strictly with land-grabbing cases with the new law. The BJP is committed to passing strict laws. The next will be one on love Jihad,” the CM said.

At Nizampura, Rupani was speaking of bringing the anti-love jihad law when he fainted.

Gujarat already has a law in place, Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act 2003, which prohibits religious conversion for marriage. Rupani’s mention of a specific law to deal with penal provisions of love jihad comes in the backdrop of Vadodara witnessing a case of an interfaith marriage where BJP leaders, including MP Ranjan Bhatt, had “counselled” the Hindu woman to reconsider her marriage to her Muslim husband after they returned home last month.

Vadodara’s Dabhoi MLA Shailesh Mehta had also written to Rupani seeking a law to provide punishment for forced religious conversion for marriage.