Gujarat election 2017: The BJP is treading cautiously, leaving no stone unturned to come back to power in Gujarat once again. While the Congress is yet to come up with the first list of its candidates, the saffron party has taken a lead by coming up with its own list. As part of its strategy, the saffron party has rewarded Congress turncoats and rebels, who voted for the BJP in this year’s Rajya Sabha election. Unlike the past when former CM Narendra Modi used to drop sitting MLAs, this year the BJP list includes almost all sitting ministers, MLAs and candidates from 2012. By doing so, the party has tried to avoid wastage of time in placating disgruntled leaders.
As the Congress is trying to consolidate votes on caste lines, the BJP has tried to accommodate all communities in its first list. These include 15 Patels, 18 OBCs, eight Thakors, six Kolis, three Ahirs, two Chaudharis, six Rajputs, two Jains and three Brahmins. Some new and interesting names include PC Baranda, who quit from the Indian Police Service to contest from Bhiloda in Aravalli district, and Dhanji Patel, owner of confectionery giant Makson group. Dhani Patel will contest from Wadhwan in Surendranagar district.
Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani will contest from Rajkot West, while his deputy Nitin Patel will contest from Mehsana. BJP’s Gujarat unit head Jitu Vaghani, who recently made peace with protesting Karadia Rajputs, will contest from Bhavnagar.
Despite coming up with the first list of candidates, the BJP has delayed the announcement of its candidates from regions where the party is facing protests by Patidars, or in regions where Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has recently toured. There include Surat, Saurashtra and Kutch. At present, BJP holds five out of six seats in Surat but it is said to facing an internal rebellion.
Here are the six Congress turncoats awarded by BJP:
Ramsinh Parmar (72), Thasra: Parmar has been an MLA for several terms and also the chairman of Amul Dairy. BJP has given him a ticket from his home constituency – Thasra. Parmar has been contesting on the Congress ticket from Thasra since 1995. He is an influential leader in central Gujarat, which has a big population of milk producers associated with Amul.
Mansinh Chauhan (66), Balasinor: Chauhan had jumped the Congress ship and returned to BJP fold after 10 years. The two-time MLA from Balasinor had joined the Congress in 2007. Earlier, he was elected as MLA on a BJP ticket from Balasinor in 1990 and 1995.
C K Raulji (63), Godhra: Raluji is known for his influence on the municipal councillors in Godhra, which has been traditionally a Congress-dominated seat. Raluji can help BJP establish a stronghold in the constituency. He had started his political journey by winning 1990 Assembly polls on a JD(U) ticket. He then joined BJP in 1991 and won the Assembly bypoll and also became a loyalist of former Gujarat CM Shankersinh Vaghela. Raulji is considered to be instrumental in bringing some other rebel Congress MLAs into the BJP fold.
Raghavji Patel (58), Jamnagar (Rural): Patel was disqualified from the Congress after he voted for BJP in Rajya Sabha election this year. Changing his political allegiance for the fifth time, Patel quit his MLA seat from Jamnagar (Rural) and joined the BJP in September. The Jamnagar (Rural) seat is dominated by Patidars. Patel told The Indian Express that he was the “number one Patidar leader of Gujarat” and the community would vote for him.
Dharmendrasinh Jadeja (44), Jamnagar (North): It is believed that the first-time MLA was instrumental in getting a number of Congress MLAs to defect to the BJP in the Rajya Sabha election this year.
Ravjibhai Vasava (56), Jhagadiya: Ravjibhai had quit the JD(U) to join BJP. He was considered a confidant of Chhotu Vasava, a JD(U) MLA from Jhagadiya. Ravjibhai had started his political career as a sarpanch of Talodra village in Bharuch district. He left the JD(U) alleging Chitu Vasava’s sons have taken over the party.
The BJP has also fielded former agriculture minister Dilip Sanghani from Dhari seat in Amreli, against sitting BJP MLA Nalin Kotadia, who had won the 2012 poll on a Gujarat Parivartan party ticket which later merged with the BJP. Kotadia had openly supported the Patidar agitation and appealed the community to defeat the saffron party in 2015 local body elections. However, later he had toed the BJP line. In a video statement, Kotadia said he would not contest this year.
Among the sitting state ministers who got tickets include: Shankar Chaudhary (Vav), Keshaji Chauhan (Deodar), Dilip Thakor (Chanasma), Bhupendrasinh Chudasama (Dholka), Jayesh Radadiya (Jetpur), Chiman Shapariya (Jamjodhpur), Jashabhai Barad (Somnath).