The bypoll to the Vadodara Lok Sabha seat will feature two first-timers, Congress city president Narendra Ravat against deputy mayor Ranjan Bhatt of the BJP. Having won a primary once, Ravat was the expected candidate, but Bhatt’s nomination came as a surprise even to her. When word got out, she refused to believe it; when the announcement came, she broke into tears.
“I couldn’t believe it as I had not asked for the ticket. I am now preparing to fulfil the responsibility that comes with being nominated from the constituency that Modiji has vacated,” said Bhatt, who was appointed deputy mayor only in June.
“Modiji has been speaking of swachch Bharat and I want to do my bit. A clean Vadodara will be the focus of my campaign. Women’s issues too will be a priority,” she says.
Bhatt, 52, is a BJP women’s wing activist said to be close to Chief Minister Anandiben Patel. In 2000, she had rebelled as an independent and won her corporation election before returning to the party. During that tenure, she had slapped a police inspector in public view for allegedly accepting a bribe to allow an illegal liquor shop. She has held key posts in various BJP and corporation boards and committees, and is secretary of the Social Ladies Club in her locality of Sama, as well as Gujarat president of the Brahman Shakti Jagriti Manch.
Bhatt is a former commerce student while her opponent is a civil engineering consultant who has launched his candidature with the catchphrase “most qualified candidate”. A familiar face in public protests against the administration, Ravat takes pride in not being able to count the cases against him. His affidavit filed as Madhusudan Mistry’s dummy candidate in April 2014 stated he faced “about 400” police cases for public dharnas. Ravat has founded the Jago Vadodara Jago Janjagruti Abhiyan against the administration’s failures, and a “Save Baroda” campaign.
Ravat lost the two civic polls he contested and has missed three party tickets, including the prized one to the Lok Sabha when the Congress ignored the primaries result and fielded Mistry. Ravat, however, has been an elected joint secretary of the Institution of Engineers and an elected senate member of MS University, where he was students’ union general secretary earlier. President of the Vadodara Youth Congress from 1997 to 2002, Ravat has been a party observer for various polls in Gujarat and away, and runs an NGO, All in Development.