The 2009 Parliament elections saw a close contest on 11 seats, the number that the BJP needs to add up to its earlier score for a hundred per cent victory in Gujarat.
These 11 seats saw very low victory margins ranging between 0.1 per cent and 2.9 for the candidate. Six of these seats were won by BJP and five by Congress, indicating floating voters or fence sitters.
According to the BJP, apart from tribal areas, these are the seats where the party has been working hard. “While we want to improve and retain the six seats won last time with low margins, we are also eyeing seats that Congress barely managed to get,” said a top party leader.
However, the BJP has gone ahead with mixed strategy of even repeating some of the candidates who won last time in a close contest at some places and at some seats by replacing them. On the five seats yet to be declared, the BJP is treading carefully even though some of them are party MPs who won by handsome margins like Harin Pathak from Ahmedabad East.
Junagadh and the Panchmahals, two seats where the BJP won last time with thin margins of 1.8 per cent and 0.3 per cent, respectively, did not feature in the first list. Junagadh sitting MP Dinu Solanki was recently chargsheeted in RTI activist Amit Jethava murder case. Like Solanki, the BJP is also doing some detailed homework on whether to repeat sitting MP Prabhatsinh Chauhan from the Panchmahals.
Kheda is another seat for which the BJP has kept the decision pending. However, the Congress has fielded its heavyweight Dinsha Patel from the constituency. Though Patel has represented the seat for the past consecutive five terms, in 2009 his victory margin was only 0.1 per cent. It will be a big prize for the BJP if it gets the Congress bastion of Kheda in their kitty.
Like Kheda, the BJP is leaving no stone unturned to attack the Congress stronghold of Sabarkantha. Sitting BJP MP Mahendrasinh Chauhan defeated Congress general secretary Madhusudan Mistry, now incharge of Uttar Pradesh, by a thin margin of 2.4 per cent votes. This time, the Congress has fielded heavyweight and Gujarat former Chief Minister Shankersinh Vaghela from the constituency. The BJP is taking some time to find the right candidate for this seat.
However, the BJP has repeated its two sitting MPs – Mansukh Vasava (Bharuch) and Ramsinh Rathva (Chhota Udepur) – though in 2009 their victory margin were 3.6 and 3.5 per cent, respectively. But at the same time it has replaced its Bhavnagar sitting MP Rajendrasinh Rana, a Kshatriya, with Koli Talaja MLA Bharti Shiyal. Rana, who is close to Modi’s bete noire Sanjay Joshi, had victory margin of 0.9 per cent.
For Surendranagar constituency, which in 2009 Congress’s Soma Ganda Patel (Koli) won with a 0.8 per cent lead, the BJP has fielded former Congressman and also Koli Devji Fatehpara. Though Valsad, won by the BJP last time with a 0.9 per cent lead, has seen change of candidate this time, but from the same family. Sitting MP D C Patel has been replaced by his brother K C Patel.