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Congress searches for candidate to take on Advani in his home turf

The state unit of the Congress party declared the first list of candidates for the April 30 Lok Sabha polls in Gujarat on Monday.

Written by Syed Khalique Ahmed | Ahmedabad | Published: March 11, 2009 2:59:47 am

The state unit of the Congress party declared the first list of candidates for the April 30 Lok Sabha polls in Gujarat on Monday. But it appears to be in a dilemma about fielding its candidate from Gandhinagar against BJP heavyweight and prime ministerial candidate L K Advani.

None of the Congress heavyweights including Union Minister of Textiles Shankersinh Vaghela have come forward to challenge Advani. Vaghela preferred to move to Panchmahals after losing his parliamentary seat of Kapadvanj in the delimitation process,while another heavyweight,Union minister Dinsha Patel has been nominated from Kheda from where he got elected to the Lok Sabha in 2004.

The senior party leaders are in so much awe of Advani’s stature that none of them are willing to ber pitted against him.

Sources said that either a sitting legislator or a former legislator will be made political canon-fodder from Gandhinagar. The strategy is that a sitting or a former legislator with little political weight stands to lose nothing even if he loses against Advani,said sources.

Advani,who has been contesting the Lok Sabha polls from Gandhingar since 1991 has defeated Congress candidates like P K Dutta,one of the most popular Gujarat cadre IPS officer,and TN Seshan,the former Chief Election Commissioner.

Renowned film star Rajesh Khanna also lost from Gandhinagar against BJP’s Vijay Patel in the 1996 by-poll. The bypoll was necessitated after Atal Bihari Vajpayee,who won the seats of Lucknow and Gandhinagar,preferred to retain the former and resigned from Gandhinagar.

Party sources said the names of five leaders,former legislators C J Chavda (Gandhinagar),Jitu Patel (Sabarmati),and sitting MLAs Suresh Patel (Kalol) and Jagdish Thakor (Dahegam),and party’s Kisan Cell chief Dashrathbhai Patel were being considered.

But state party chief spokesman Arjun Modhwadia said that there were more chances of Chavda and Suresh Patel being pitted against Advani.

The reason behind considering the names of Chavda and Patel,according to party sources,is that they belong to the parliamentary constituency and also to communities which have a sizeable presence in the area.

There are around four lakh Thakor voters and three lakh Patel voters in the constituency and this could prove to be an advantage if a Thakor or a Patel is fielded.

Chavda could not be reached for comments despite several efforts,while Suresh Patel said he was asked by the party if he would be willing to fight against Advani. He said there was no question of saying no to the party.

“I’m ready to challenge Advani if the party decides so,” Patel,a two time MLA from Kalol in Gandhinagar district told The Indian Express. Patel won the 1998 and 2007 Assembly elections,but lost the one in 2002.

A former Gujarat Administrative Service (GAS) officer,Chavda worked as an officer on special duty in the Chief Minister’s Office during Shankersinh Vaghela’s tenure. Subsequently he resigned and contested from the Vijapur constituency during 1998.

He lost the polls as a nominee of the Rashtriya Janata Party (RJP) led by Vaghela,but became close to Vaghela which helped him to find a foothold in the Congress when Vaghela merged his party with the latter. In the 2002 Assembly polls,he contested from the Gandhinagar seat and defeated BJP’s Vadilal Patel despite deep communal polarisation due to the Godhra and the post-Godhra riots. But Chavda had to lick dust in the 2007 Assembly polls from Gandhinagar.

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