The BJP has declared 21 of 26 candidates and the five who remain to be announced are for seats where the BJP is either unsure of victory or has not found a candidate who appealed to Modi. Many tickets have been given to leaders recently drafted from the Congress, usually with Modi’s blessings, while his rivals and those seen as close to them have been sidelined.
In Jamnagar, the battle is between sitting Congress MP Vikram Madam and his niece Poonam Madam, inducted from the Congress with Modi’s blessings. Then a fresh face, Poonam got an assembly election from Bhanwad, which she won. Poonam is also credited with enabling a BJP victory in Salaya municipality in Jamnagar district, which has a sizeable Muslim vote, and which was traditionally with the Congress. “The public knows that she is the only person who can pose a threat to the sitting MP,” says Jamnagar city BJP president Hasmukh Hindocha.
In Bhavnagar, Dr Bharti Shiyal, 48, was preferred over a veteran leader with RSS roots, six-time MP Rajendrasinh Rana, who is known for his closeness to Modi’s rival Sanjay Joshi. Rana won thinly in 2009. Shiyal is a Koli leader.
Vitthal Radadiya, 56, another Congress heavyweight, has been rewarded with Porbandar. Last year Modi dealt a huge blow to the Congress, especially Shankersinh Vaghela, when he pulled confidant Radadiya, along with his MLA son Jayesh, over to his side. Radadiya had supported Vaghela in toppling the Keshubhai Patel-led BJP government in 1997, a rebellion largely seen as an anti-Modi one.
In Bardoli, union minister Tushar Chaudhary will contest his once close aide and former Congress MLA Prabhu Vasawa. Even in 2009, Vasawa was managing Chaudhary’s campaign. Chaudhary is the son of late chief minister and tribal leader Amarsinh Chaudhary.
In Patan, is currently with the Congress, the BJP has brought in an old Congress face and now state minister, Liladhar Vaghela. A Thakur, he was also Modi’s choice in 2004 against Congress heavyweight Vaghela from Kapadvanj. Liladar lost that election but remained in Modi’s good books.
Purshottam Rupala has recently fallen out with Modi and does not feature in the list. The BJP has retained its sitting MP, Naran Kachadia for Amreli, who was brought in by Modi in 2009.
The name of actor Paresh Rawal is doing the rounds for Ahmedabad East, which would be a snub to six-time MP Harin Pathak. Rawal is a self-proclaimed Modi fan. Pathak, who has been winning with heavy margins, is considered a staunch supporterof Advani.