The Congress is yet to decide on its candidates from the three Lok Sabha seats of Bharuch, Surat and Navsari – all BJP stronghold. In fact, the Congress has been facing defeat in Surat and Bharuch for over two decades. Navsari, which was created during delimitation exercise in 2008, also went to BJP in 2009 electing C R Patil with a big margin.
Surat, the state’s diamond and industrial hub with a huge migrant population, has been a BJP stronghold with Kanshiram Rana winning it for the first time in 1989 and following it up with victories in 1991, 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2004. Darshana Zardosh replaced Rana and won in 2009 and has been renominated once again to defend his seat.
Similarly, though Congress heavyweight and Congress’s current political secretary to Sonia Gandhi, Ahmed Patel, won from this seat in 1977, 1980 and 1984, he lost in the 1991 Lok Sabha elections in the wake of huge political mobilisation by BJP.
With BJP fielding a tribal and with the emergence of Chhotubhai Vasava as a local satrap, the Congress lost its grip over tribal voters accounting for more than 35 per cent of the electorate in this constituency.
By splitting tribal votes and strengthening its influence over saffron supporters in the constituency, BJP’s Chandubhai Deshmukh won from this Congress citadel in 1991, 1996 and 1998. The next three elections were won for the BJP by Mansukh Vasava in 1999, 2004 and 2009. He too has been renominated to defend his seat.
This time round, Congress is believed to have wanted some kind of arrangement with Chhotubhai Vasava (now with JD-U) to avert a triangular contest, but sources said, he put forth some tough conditions. State party chief Arjun Modhwadia said, “We are looking for strong candidates to give a tough fight to BJP,” and added that names of the three candidates would be announced in a day or two.