As the BJP Gujarat parliamentary board met on Wednesday for the third and last round to finalise candidates for all 26 seats in the state, chief minister Narendra Modi is unlikely to upset any camp by springing surprises or shocks. Modi will take this list to Delhi on Thursday for a final approval by the national parliamentary board.
Party sources indicated that a large number of sitting MPs are likely to be fielded again to avoid any tremors in the party ahead of elections. If Gujarat Parivartan Party, led by former BJP chief minister Keshubhai Patel, emerged as options for the dejected BJP leaders in the Assembly elections, this time Aam Aadmi Party can prove to be magnet for the sitting MPs. This especially when the party has set itself an ambitious target of increasing its overall tally from 15 seats in 2009 to at least 22, if not all 26, this time round.
“The BJP is not in a position to make anyone, especially loyal old members, unhappy by replacing them with new candidates,” said a top party leader. This has been strongly conveyed by Modi, who has attended the parliamentary board sessions on all three days.
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However, some seats which are likely to see a change include Ahmedabad East, Vadodara, Surat and Bhavnagar. The five-time MP from Bhavnagar, Rajendrasinh Rana, known as close aide of Modi’s bete noire Sanjay Joshi, managed to win by a thin margin of 0.9 per cent last time.
Former Home Minister Gordhan Zadaphia, who is back in the BJP after forming two parties — MJP and GPP — during this period is keen to contest from Bhavnagar, his home town. While party sources maintain that Zadaphia agreed to come back to the BJP fold on the condition of a ticket from Bhavnagar, some senior leaders in the BJP have maintained that it may not happen at least in this election.Since the Assembly elections in December 2012, six Congress MLAs have resigned to join the BJP.
While Saurashtra strongman Vitthal Radadiya and his son Jayesh were immediately given tickets for Porbandar(LS) and Jetpur (AC) respectively, it may not be that easy with Zadaphia and the former Congress MLAs, including Chhabil Patel, Prabhu Vasava, Rajendra Chavda, Bavku Unghad and Jasa Barad.
Sources also maintained that while Modi may choose Ahmedabad East, Vadodara or Surat, incumbents of all the three seats, Harin Pathak, Darshana Jardosh and Balkrishna Shukla respectively, have already announced to step aside for Modi. Party patriarch Lal Krishna Advani, who represents Gandhinagar, however has expressed his desire to retain the seat.
Advani, Rana and Pathak are the only three sitting BJP MPs who have been successful for more than three terms. Most of the other constituencies in Saurashtra, North Gujarat, South Gujarat and Central Gujarat are represented by relatively new leaders.