As many as 16 senior leaders from Gujarat, including ministers from the outgoing BJP-led dispensation and Congress heavyweights, were humbled in the just-concluded Assembly elections. Sitting and former MLAs were among those defeated in the polls, the results of which were declared yesterday. Though the BJP will form the next government in Gujarat after a sixth straight victory in the state, the results came as a blow to the party with six of its ministers and the Speaker of the Assembly, Ramanlal Vora, losing to the Congress. Top Congress leaders and party heavyweights also bit the dust, even though the opposition party fared better than it did in 2012, winning 77 seats as compared to the 61 it scored then. Among the senior Congress leaders defeated were Arjun Modhwadia, Shaktisinh Gohil, Siddharth Patel and Tushar Chaudhary. Modhwadia, who was the leader of the opposition in the state Assembly between 2004 and 2007, lost to state fisheries minister and senior BJP leader Babubhai Bokhiriya by a narrow margin of 1,855 votes. Bokhiriya had defeated him in 2012, too, from Porbandar.
Gohil, the sitting MLA from the Abdasa seat in Kutch district, who would have been in the race for the chief minister’s chair in the event of a Congress victory, lost the Mandvi constituency of Kutch, which the BJP’s Virendrasinh Jadeja won by a comfortable margin of over 9,000 votes. Gohil, who is the national spokesperson of the Congress, had served as a minister of finance, health, education and Narmada in the two consecutive Congress governments. He was the leader of the opposition in the Gujarat Assembly from 2007 to 2012. In 2012, he was defeated from the Bhavnagar-Rural Assembly segment, but had won from Abdasa in a 2014 by-poll. Siddharth Patel, son of former Congress chief minister Chimanbhai Patel, lost to Shailesh Mehta of the BJP from the Dabhoi constituency of Vadodara.
Patel, who was appointed the party’s campaign committee head for the 2017 elections, was also defeated in the 2012 elections from the same seat. Former MP and union minister Tushar Chaudhary, who is the son of tribal leader and former Congress chief minister Amarsinh Chaudhary, lost to BJP’s Mohanbhai Dhodiya from the Mahuva seat of Surat district by over 6,000 votes. Several BJP leaders, MLAs and ministers also met with a similar fate this time. Six ministers in the outgoing state government, including two of cabinet rank, fell by the wayside. Among those who tasted defeat was the minister of state for urban development and Health, Shankar Chaudhary. In a tightly-contested election, he lost to Congress’s Geniben Thakor by around 5,000 votes.
Cabinet rank minister and BJP’s Dalit leader Atmaram Parmar was defeated by Congress’s Pravinbhai Maru from the Gadhada (SC) Assembly seat in Botad district. Another cabinet minister, Chimanbhai Saparia, who holds the agriculture and energy portfolios, lost to Chiragbhai Kalariya of the Congress from Jamjodhpur. Minister of state (MoS) for backward class welfare Keshaji Chauhan lost by a narrow margin of 972 votes from the Deodar constituency. Congress’s Premsinh Vasava defeated forest and tribal welfare MoS Shabdsharan Tadvi for the Nandod (ST) seat. Senior BJP MLA and state water supply minister Jasha Barad lost the Somnath seat to Congress candidate Vimal Chudasama.
Fortune did not favour former MLA and senior BJP leader Dilip Sanghani, who lost to Congress candidate J V Kakadiya on the Dhari seat of Amreli district. In a close battle for the Dasada (SC) seat of Surendranagar, young Congress leader Naushad Solanki defeated state Assembly speaker and the BJP’s Dalit face, Ramanlal Vora, with a margin of just over 3,700 votes.
Some senior MLAs of the ruling party failed at the hustings, too. On the Morbi seat, sitting BJP MLA Kanti Amrutiya lost to Congress’s Brijesh Merja by a slim margin of 3,419 votes. Amrutiya had won the seat five times between 1995 and 2012. Six-time MLA Mahendra Mashru lost his home seat Junagadh to Congress’s veteran Bhikhabhai Joshi. Mashru, known for leading an ascetic life, had been winning from this seat since 1990, when he first became an MLA as an independent. In 1995, he again won as an independent candidate.
Mashru, who claims that he does not accept a salary as an MLA and takes public transport to the Assembly for its sessions in Gandhinagar, joined the BJP after 1995 and won from the same seat in 1998, 2002, 2007 and 2012. BJP minister Parshottam Solanki’s brother Hira Solanki also lost his Rajula seat in Amreli district. Hira Solanki, a four-time BJP MLA, was defeated by Congress’s Amrish Der. The BJP also lost the Unjha seat of Mehsana district, represented by senior MLA Narayan Patel. The 79-year-old BJP leader was defeated by Congress’s Asha Patel. Narayan Patel represented this seat five times from 1995. The Unjha constituency includes Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s hometown Vadnagar. The BJP secured a simple majority in the crucial state elections, winning 99 seats in the 182-member Assembly. However, its tally dipped from 115 in 2012 as the Congress improved its previous score.