The war paint is on. The BJP is aiming at winning all 26 LS seats from Gujarat, while the Congress has announced no such target. Nonetheless, Lok Sabha 2014 promises to be exciting with Chief Minister Narendra Modi running for the country’s top job. Hiral Dave looks at the 10 seats that are likely to be gripping.
This former princely state has turned into a battleground for the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, with the pitch set for a Chaiwala vs Chawlwala fight. After the party announced Vadodara as Modi’s second seat, the Congress changed its candidate Narendra Ravat, who had won the primaries, and replaced him with its Rajya Sabha member and general secretary Madhusudan Mistry to fight the mother of all battles.
With this, the seat that looked like a cakewalk, suddenly turned into a challenge for the BJP. Modi’s remarks that Ravat was removed because he was a Dalit only indicated that the fight had finally begun.
Mistry has the NGOs on his side, while Modi has the RSS. BJP has put minister Saurabh Patel, an MLA from Vadodara, in charge of Modi’s campaign, with sitting MP Balkrishna Shukla, who won with a huge margin of 1.5 lakh votes, being assigned as a foot soldier.
Modi has the advantage of his position as well as the fact that he began wooing voters in Vadodara from December last year, when he chose to flag off the ‘Run for Unity’ for the Sardar Patel statue, which was originally a Vadodara Marathon. Now he also has the royal family on his side.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is yet to announce its candidate for this constituency.
The verdict of this battle would have been a foregone conclusion, had the BJP patriarch not voiced his reluctance to contest from here. The sense he and many BJP leaders were getting was that Advani had lost favour with the ranks after he protested against Modi’s elevation in the party. However for the BJP, Gandhinagar has become a prestige issue. The Congress has given the ticket to a Shankersinh Vaghela loyalist Kirit Patel to fight five-time Gandhinagar MP Advani, and also corner the Patel votes.
Here there is AAP candidate Rituraj Mehta, a builder who could get some of the capital votes, given Arvind Kejriwal’s popularity with the bureaucracy.
So the BJP flew in its general secretary in charge of UP Amit Shah to extend the solidarity of the party, even as Advani’s daughter Pratibha and minister in charge of the constituency Anandi Patel did a roadshow. Advani, who wanted to contest from Bhopal, where Chief Minister Shivrajsingh Chouhan would have rolled out a red carpet, will have to garner votes in the name of his protege Narendra Modi here.
Thirty-nine-year-old Poonam Maadam has been fielded by the BJP to challenge Jamnagar Congress’s two-term sitting MP and her uncle Vikram Maadam. She has got a ticket to the parliament just a year after she won the Bhanwad Assembly seat after crossing over to the BJP.
Then a fresh face in the Congress, Modi had brought her in the BJP ahead of 2012 Assembly election, following a rift with her uncle who had reportedly opposed her candidature in the Congress. She reportedly also engineered a clean sweep of Salaya municipality in Jamnagar district, with Muslim candidates being fielded by the BJP prevailing on all the 27 seats of the local body. This contest will decide if the BJP can win back its bastion that it held for seven terms prior to 2004.
Although AAP has fielded candidate Rajendra Jhala, the contest is likely to be two-way.
This is another battle of honour for the BJP that replaced seven-time MP Harin Pathak with veteran Bollywood actor Paresh Rawal to take on former Ahmedabad Mayor Himmatsinh Patel in this seat, known as BJP’s cradle.
Though it is a saffron bastion, Rawal had to battle the ‘outsider’ tag after supporters of Pathak opposed his candidature. Sixty-three-year-old Rawal, who is playing role of Narendra Modi in a biopic, was parachuted in by the BJP from an ongoing shoot in Africa to land on the political stage.
Initially Pathak had protested the replacement, but was forced to fall in line after a meeting with BJP president Rajnath Singh.
Although Himmatsinh is a Gurjar, the Congress is banking on him to pool in Patel votes.
Former BJP Mahuva MLA Dr Kanu Kalsariya, who had successfully led a farmers’ agitation against the Modi government, is an AAP candidate from Bhavagar, which is the BJP bastion. Kalsariya’s candidature, has turned it into a three-way contest. Like him, BJP candidate Bharti Shiyal, who is the sitting Talaja MLA, and Congress candidate, Pravin Rathod, who is the sitting Palitana MLA and won the primaries, are contesting the LS election for the first time.
With BJP dropping its seven-time sitting MP Rajesndrasinh Rana here, a lot depends on campaigning by Fisheries Minister Purshottam Solanki, who is an accused in the misappropriation in fishing contracts case.
Dr Kalasariya, a practising surgeon, had lost Assembly seat Gariyadhar that he contested from the platform of Sadbhavna Manch, founded by him in 2012. He has again been banking on his clean and farmer-friendly image, even as BJP is banking on Shiyal to woo the majority of the Koli votes in this constituency.
Here, AAP candidate Nathalal Sukhdia might eat into votes of either Congress or BJP or both. The BJP, which is suffering from factionalism in Amreli, has repeated its sitting MP Naran Kachadia and is on a sticky wicket. Sukhadia, an RTI activist, had, with support of official documents in 2012 alleged large-scale scam by former four-term MP Dilip Sanghani from Amreli. Sanghani had then lost the Assembly election and is at present sulking after being sidelined by the BJP. Meanwhile, Congress has fielded its former Babra MLA Virji Thummar., Thummar’s wife Nila had lost to Kachadia in 2009.
This is the only seat that the Congress has given to ally NCP, whose current MLA from Kutiyana and son of late ‘Godmother’ Santokben Jadeja, Kandhal, will fight the Patel strongman from the BJP.
This former Congress MP Vitthal Radadiya is known for his money and muscle power. If Radadiya has serious charges like threat and assault against him, Jadeja is a murder-accused.
Radadiya, a Leuva Patel, who was in 2012 caught on camera brandishing a gun at a toll plaza employee, will try to to retain the seat.
Jadeja, after winning his first Assembly election in 2012, is the best bet for the NCP to open its account in the two-party dominated Gujarat.
Union Minister of State for Road, Transport and Railways Tushar Chaudhary will be challenged in his constituency Bardoli by former aide-turned-rival Prabhv Vasava. The BJP pulled Vasava, who was Mandvi Congress MLA, into its fold two months ago, and fielded him in the Congress bastion against Chaudhary, for whom he has been the campaign manager in the past elections.
The going is not likely to be smooth for Chaudhary with his one-time lieutenant fighting against him.
Congress legislative party leader Shankersinh Vaghela may not have a strong opponent in BJP candidate Deepsinh Rathod in Sabarkantha, but AAP candidate Nathubhai Solanki may prove to be the game spoiler for him.
Vaghela, who had lost the Panchmahal seat last time with a small margin, is contesting from this OBC-dominated seat, earlier held by his colleague Madhusudan Mistry.
The fight is likely to be a close one for Union minister for Mines Dinsha Patel and his rival from the BJP Devusinh Chauhan. Like 2009, BJP has repeated Chauhan to polarise the votes between Patels and Kshatriyas in this Congress-stronghold. Patel won by a very thin margin of 721 votes in 2009, getting 47.12 per cent of the votes against 46.98 per cent of Devusinh Chauhan. Besides, AAP has also fielded Labhubhai Badiwala from this constituency.