Indian Express looks at six of the key contests to watch in the Gujarat polls first phase on December 9
Chief Minister Vijay Rupani has been renominated to the seat, which is considered the bastion of the BJP and the RSS in Saurashtra. The Congress has brought in Indranil Rajyaguru, MLA from Rajkot East, who was the wealthiest candidates last time and has declared even more this time, Rs 141 crore. Rupani is known to have nurtured his constituency, which he visits on weekends, while Rajyaguru has been making an effort to build a base in the constituency for more than a year now.
2012: Rupani 56% Cong 40%
The rivalry between minister Babu Bokhiriya and former Gujarat Congress president Arjun Modhwadia goes back two decades. Either of the two has won Probandar in its five elections since 1995, Bokhiriya three times and Modhwadia twice. Head to head, they have faced off in three of these elections, with Bokhiriya winning in 1998 and 2012, and Modhwadia in 2002. Since losing in 2012 — he then had the additional responsibility of leading the Gujarat Congress —Modhwadia has focused on the seat.
2012: Bokhiriya 53% Cong 41%
The Congress sprang a surprise by allotting Mandvi to Gohil, its most emphatic voice in the assembly and one of its most important leaders in Gujarat alongside Arjun Modhwadia. Until the announcement of Congress tickets, it was being said that Gohil would contest from his home district, Bhavnagar. Mandvi, which is in Kutch district, is currently held by the BJP, but the Congress is optimistic after fielding Gohil. The BJP has replaced its current MLA, former Gujarat minister Tarachand Chheda, with Virendrasinh Jadeja.
2012: BJP 44% Cong 38%
The contest in Dasada, reserved for Schedule Castes, of Surendranagar district has become very significant with the BJP bringing in its most senior Dalit leader, Ramanlal Vora, after he had represented Idar constituency for five terms starting 1995. Vora, currently Speaker of the Assembly, has also been a cabinet-ranked minister in BJP governments in the state. Naushad Solanki, the Congress candidate from Dasada, is chief of the Gujarat Congress’s SC Welfare Cell, and has been working in the district for some time now.
2012: BJP 49% Cong 41%
Amreli is one of the hotspots of the Patidar quota stir. The Congress has renominated its firebrand young Patidar MLA, Paresh Dhanani, and believes he is the favourite. The BJP has brought in its MLA from Lathi, Bavku Udhad, a leader with a history of hopping parties; he once left the BJP to join the Congress before coming back. In 2012, Dhanani had defeated former minister Dilip Saghani, who has moved this time to Dhari in the same district to enable Udhad to face off against Dhanani.
2012: Dhanani 51% BJP 33%
Varachha, in Surat, has the highest concentration of Patidars in Gujarat, more than 60%. It is here, along with Mehsana of North Gujarat, that the Patidar quota stir has had the highest impact. The BJP has retained its sitting MLA Kumar Kanani. The Congress initially fielded Praful Togadiya, its leader in the Surat Municipal Corporation, but replaced him with Dhiru Gajera, a prominent Patidar leader who contested against Kanani in 2012. Gajera was formerly a BJP leader.
2012: Kanani 54% Gajera 38%