Gujarat election 2017: Led by Rahul Gandhi, the Congress is currently running a mammoth campaign to conquer the Gujarat battle against BJP. While Gandhi has remained Congress’ prime face in elections, it is yet not clear as to who will be nominated as party’s CM in case it wins the elections. The last Congress Chief Minister in Gujarat Chhabildas Mehta who was appointed after the death of serving CM Chimanbhai Patel in 1994. In 2011, there came a situation that party faced a leadership crisis and Arjun Modhwadia was appointed to lead the party in the state. Here are some of the heavyweights in Gujarat Congress, who are carrying the hopes of the Congress party in the high-octane battlefield of Gujarat and one of them could be the party’s CM candidate:
Bharatsinh Solanki, 64
President of Congress’ Gujarat unit, Bharatsinh Solanki is the son of veteran leader Madhavsinh Solanki who has served as Gujarat chief minister four times. Madhavsinh is credited with a record victory of 149 seats in 1985. It is said that he had come up with a formula sought to bring together OBCs, Dalits, tribals and Muslims. In the current elections, Bharatsinh is leading the campaign with a formula that addresses OBCs, Dalits, Tribals and Patels. He was appointed as GPCC president in 2006 and was credited for revitalising the party from the low it has hit since 2002.
Solanki had quit as Congress chief in 2007 following a controversy. His second term started in 2015. The leader is a three-time MLA, two-time Lok Sabha MP, and has served as MoS for drinking water & sanitation (independent charge) as well as for railways and power. In 2014, he lost Gujarat Lok Sabha polls from Anand.
Siddharth Patel, 63
In charge of Congress campaign, Siddharth is among the top Patidar faces in the Congress leadership. He is the son of former chief minister Chimanbhai Patel and former Union MoS Dr Urmila Patel. The leader has served as general secretary in the GPCC since 1994. He is expected to contest elections from Dabhoi, from where he has contested four elections since 1998, winning twice and losing twice. Patel was elected to the state assembly in 1998 and won; he was re-elected in 2007. The leader lost in 2012 by a narrow margin of 5,000 votes. He has also served as GPCC president in 2008 and the party’s chief whip in the assembly between 1998 and 2002. He has not been named in any of the Congress list so far.
Arjun Modhwadia, 60
Known as the voice of opposition benches, Arjun Modhwadia was once an engineer with the Gujarat Maritime Board. Modhwadia joined politics in 1997 and contested his first election in 2002 from Porbandar. He made headlines after he defeated BJP heavyweight Babu Bokhiriya despite a BJP wave in the state amid an atmosphere of communal polarisation.
Modhwadia was appointed as Congress Legislature Party leader during 2004-07. He is also known for leading his party with much temperament in the assembly as Opposition leader firing salvos of the BJP over various issues. He once again won from Porbandar in 2007. In 2011, Modhwadia was made Gujarat PCC chief and was in charge of party affairs when the Congress was routed in 2012. Modhwadia, who lost against Bokhiria in Porbandar that year, is once again pitted against the same rival this year.
Shaktisinh Gohil, 57
A four-time MLA from Saurashtra region, Shaktisinh Gohil played a pivotal role during the Rajya Sabha election early this year in which Congress’ Ahmed Patel emerged as the winner. Gohil is associated with a family of freedom fighters and his grandfather Darbar Saheb Ranjitsinhji has served as an MLA from Gadhada in 1967.
Gohil’s four legislative terms include three from Bhavnagar South and one from Abdasa — in a 2014 bypoll. Gohil has been fielded from Kutch’s Mandvi this time. Gohil was elected in 1990, then only 30, and was appointed a minister. He has also held important portfolios including finance, education, health, environment, Narmada, general administration department and technical education.
Paresh Dhanani, 41
Paresh Dhanani is a Patel leader and known as party’s crisis manager in the state. Son of a farmer, Dhanani was brought into politics by former Union minister Manubhai Kotadiya. He made headlines in 2002 after defeating then agriculture minister Parshottam Rupala in the election to Amreli. Dhanani lost his elections in 2007 but won again in 2012 by defeating Dilip Sanghani, then MoS for agriculture.
The leader was appointed as general secretary of the Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee and later an AICC secretary, a post he continues to hold. Dhanani himself is considered a Patidar voice in the state and played a key role in charting the route of Rahul Gandhi’s roadshow in Saurasthra in September. He was also a crucial part of Congress core crisis management team during the Rajya Sabha election August last.