The Congress today released its final list of 14 candidates on the last day of filing of nominations for the second phase of Gujarat polls, leaving two seats for allies and supporting dalit leader Jignesh Mevani who is contesting as an Independent from Vadgam. While the party has dropped four of its sitting MLAs, it has fielded OBC leader Alpesh Zala (Thakor), popularly known as Alpesh Thakor, in Radhanpur constituency. Radhanpur is a bastion of the Thakor community and currently held by the BJP. Thakor recently joined the Congress in the presence of party vice president Rahul Gandhi. The Congress left two seats for ally Bharatiya Tribal Party headed by former JD (U) MLA Chhotubhai Vasava. Vasava’s party will contest from five seats of Jhagadia, Dediapada, Mangrol, Morva Hadaf and Vaghodia in the two-phase election. The Congress did not field its candidate in Vadgam (SC) seat of Banaskantha in support of Mevani, who led the dalit stir against the BJP government. The Congress has been wooing community leaders like Hardik Patel of the Patidar quota agitation, Mevani and Thakur to dislodge the BJP, which has been in power in the state for over two decades. The names of 76 candidates for the second phase were declared by the Congress last night. In the fourth and final list today, 14 others were declared while it changed its candidate for Manjalpur constituency where Chirag Zaveri has been fielded in place of Purvesh Borela.
The sitting MLAs who have not been given tickets are Dharshi Khanpura (from Kankrej), Hira Patel (Lunawada), Joitabhai Patel (Dhanera) and Natvarsinh Thakor (Mahudha). For Mahudha seat, held by Natvarsinh Thakor since long, the party has chosen his son Indrajitsinh Thakor. Former Gujarat Congress president Siddharth Patel has been nominated for Dabhoi seat of Vadodara district while senior high court lawyer and party leader Babu Mangukia, who had fought Hadik Patel’s sedition case initially, has been chosen for the Thakkar Nagar seat in Ahmedabad city. The polling for the two-phase election to the 182-member Assembly will take place on December 9 and 14 and the votes will be counted on December 18. The 89 seats of Saurashtra and South Gujarat region are going to polls in the first phase while the remaining 93 seats in central and northern region would go for polls in the second phase. Under the seat-sharing agreement with Bharatiya Tribal Party, recently floated by Vasava after the rift in the JD(U), the Congress has not fielded any of its candidate on five seats, including four reserved for Scheduled Tribes (STs).
For the first phase, the Congress has fielded its candidates on 86 out of the 89 seats, as three seats were given to Bharatiya Tribal Party. These tribal seats are – Jhaghadia, Dediapada and Mangrol, all reserved for STs. For the second phase, the Congress gave away two seats – Morvahadaf (ST) of Panchmahal and Waghodia seat of Vadodara – to Vasava’s party. Both are currently held by the ruling BJP.