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At 32 years of age, Mangrol MLA Rajesh Chudasama will be the youngest contestant from the state in the Lok Sabha elections. In Chudasama’s selection, it is for the first time that the BJP has given a LS ticket to Koli, the dominant community in the twin districts of Junagadh and Gir Somnath.
Chudasama’s uncle Hira Chudasama has served for more than three decades as the president of Chorwad municipality before he completed his latest tenure a year ago. He is believed to be quite close to Ambanis of the Reliance. “It was Hirabapa who initiated Rajesh into politics and asked him to contest the Assembly elections in 2012,” Rajesh’s younger brother Hari said.
Rajesh, who holds a bachelor degree in commerce, had defeated Chandrika Chudasama in the 2012 elections to wrest away the seat from Congress. He runs Monghibhai Rambhai Charitable Trust in the area and is known for his accessibility, sources said. The family is in the business of exporting seafood products.
It is for the fist time that either Congress or BJP has fielded a candidate from Koli community, the group which accounts for the single largest vote share in the constituency. The community has traditionally been supporter of Congress, but political parties have generally fielded candidates either from Karadia, Ahir or Patel, the other major communities in the twin districts. With an eye on the sizeable fishermen votes in the twin districts, the party has already nominated Chuni Gohil to the Rajya Sabha.
The Mangrol MLA will be pitted against seasoned Jasu Barad, the 58-year-old sitting Congress MLA from Talala constituency in Gir Somnath district. Jasu has been elected MLA four times and also served as a minister in the state. But his most celebrated victory had come in 2004 when he defeated Bhavna Chikhalia, then Union minister of state for tourism in the NDA government. However, the 60-year-old Barad had lost the 2009 elections to Dinu Solanki, the sitting BJP MP who has been chargesheeted by the CBI in the RTI activist Amit Jethva murder case.