Gujarat polls: Sitting MLAs, Congress turncoats crowd BJP's first list of 70 candidates
The BJP on Friday announced its first set of 70 candidates for the crucial Gujarat Assembly polls fielding most of the sitting MLAs. Polling for the 182-member Assembly will be held in two phases on 9 and 14 December.
The names were finalised at the BJP central election committee meeting presided over by party President Amit Shah and attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union ministers Rajnath Singh and Sushma Swaraj among others.
Facing a stiff challenge BJP is betting big on old faces. Among the prominent names featuring in the initial list are Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel, and Gujarat BJP president Jitu Vaghani.
While Rupani will seek a re-contest from Rajkot West in Saurashtra, his deputy Patel has been fielded from Mehsana. Vaghani once again has been fielded from Bhavnagar West which he won in 2012 by a huge margin.
The largest constituency in the Saurashtra region, Rajkot West has traditionally been a saffron stronghold. Rupani won the seat in 2014 in a by-election after seven-time-MLA and former Gujarat Speaker Vajubhai Vala was made Karnataka Governor.
Vala, who has been winning the Rajkot west since 1985, vacated it for the then newly crowned Chief Minister Narendra Modi for his maiden polls in 2002. Modi won the polls defeating Congress’ Ashwin Mehta.
The BJP has also fielded Congress turncoats – Raghavji Patel, Dharmendrasinh Jadeja, CK Raulji, Mansinh Chauhan and Ramsinh Parmar – who joined the BJP during the Rajya Sabha election in which Ahmed Patel was elected.
Ahmed Patel will be recontesting from Jamnagar rural which he had won in 2012 while Jadeja will be contesting from Jamnagar North which he had won in 2012 as a Congress nominee.
Chauhan will be contesting from Balasinor which he had won in 2007 and 2012 on a Congress ticket while Parmar will be in the fray from Thasra which he had won as a Congress nominee both in 2007 and 2012. Raulji will be re-contesting from Godhra from where he has won in 2007 and 2012.
Faced with the Patidar agitation led by Hardik Patel, the BJP's first list also has 16 Patels including deputy CM Nitin Patel.