Gujarat, which goes to the polls in two phases on December 1 and 5, will witness a fierce contest with the ruling BJP looking to come back to power, the Congress planning to capitalise on their gains in the state and the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) hoping to repeat what it did in Punjab.
AAP may open its account in the Gujarat Assembly but the main contenders still appear to be the BJP and Congress. The failure of the Congress to resolve the CM issues does give the BJP an edge, especially because it has the Modi factor in its favour, but with the Lok Sabha elections about a year and half away, the saffron party does feel the pressure.
A total of 1,621 candidates will fight the Gujarat assembly elections. Of the 89 seats that go to poll in Phase 1, a total of 788 candidates will contest, of which 70 are women candidates and 339 are independents. Similarly, of the 93 seats in Phase-2, a total of 833 candidates will contest. There are 69 women candidates and 285 independents in the second phase.
Here are some of the constituencies that are likely to witness a tight contest:
Khambhaliya: AAP, which is planning to make inroads into Gujarat this year with the Assembly polls is banking upon its chief ministerial candidate Isudan Gadhvi to get their ball rolling. However, the seat he is contesting from is primarily dominated by the Ahirs and only Ahir candidates have been elected from the seat since 1972. Ahirs are categorised under Other Backward Classes, just like the Gadhvi community.
Isudan will be up against senior Congress leader and incumbent MLA Vikram Madam and BJP veteran Mulu Bera. The rivalry between Madam and Bera dates back almost three decades and the two are set for a showdown after 20 years. Gadhvi is from the village of Pipaliya in Khambhalia taluka but his electoral debut is unlikely to be an easy affair as a non-Ahir candidate last won the constituency in 1967.
Ghatlodia: This constituency in Ahmedabad is considered to be one of the strongholds of the BJP. The saffron party, thus, decided that Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel shall be running again from here. This constituency has a majority of Patidar voters and has given two chief ministers to the state —current CM Bhupendra Patel and Anandiben Patel. In 2017, Bhupendra Patel had won with a record margin of 1.17 lakh votes despite the Hardik Patel-led Patidar quota agitation.
Surat: This seat is expected to be a true three-pronged contest as the Congress had put up a strong showing in 2017, going up to 77 seats, and confining the BJP to 99. However, the city has grown up seeing only BJP MLAs, but the AAP’s performance in the Surat municipal corporation polls also cannot go unnoticed. Ever since 27 of its candidates became corporators, Kejriwal’s party has made its presence felt in this city.
Viramgam: This is one of Gujarat seats where AAP’s entry is making it challenging for both BJP and Congress, whose candidate won it in 2017. Hardik Patel, who walked out of the Congress despite being its state working president to join the BJP a few months ago, is now contesting the election from Viramgam on the saffron party’s ticket. The AAP has fielded Kuvarji Thakore from the constituency while the Congress has stuck with its candidate Lakhabhai Bharwad who won the seat by more than 75,000 votes in 2017.
Morbi: Morbi has long been a BJP stronghold, with the party winning the seat consistently from 1995 till 2012. In the last Assembly elections, in 2017, while the Congress wrested the constituency, it eventually lost both the winning candidate and the seat to the BJP. Morbi has a substantial Patidar population and the Congress winner then, Brijesh Merja, finished by just 3,419 votes ahead of the BJP’s five-time winner Kanti Amrutiya.
Maninagar: This constituency in Ahmedabad has been a bastion of the BJP since the 1990s. This is the seat that was contested and won by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2002, 2007, and 2014. The seat is currently held by BJP’s Suresh Patel.
Godhra: The Godhra assembly segment has around 2,79,000 voters, of whom 72,000 are Muslims. This constituency has seen the rise of All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), which won seven seats in the Godhra Municipal Council polls last year and even tied up with independents to keep the BJP out of power. Senior Congress leader CK Raulji had won the seat in 2007 and 2012 but then crossed over to the BJP, winning against the Congress in 2017 but with a margin of 258 votes.
Jamnagar North: This is one of the big-ticket seats for the BJP this year as it has fielded cricketer Ravindra Jadeja’s wife Rivaba Jadeja who is making her electoral debut in the upcoming polls. She will face off against veteran Congress leader Bipendrasinh Jadeja whose campaign is being managed by Ravindra Jadeja’s sister and the Congress women’s wing head Nainaba Jadeja. The Aam Aadmi Party’s candidate is Karsan Karmur who quit the BJP last year. The seat is currently held by BJP’s Dharmendrasinh Jadeja.
Danilimda: A reserved Scheduled Caste constituency in Ahmedabad city, Danilimda has been a strong hold for the Congress with veteran Shailesh Parmar winning the seat by a comfortable margin — over 14,000 votes in 2012 and 32,000 votes in 2017. However, this time, it has got strong competition as besides the BJP, AAP and AIMIM have also fielded its candidates.
Dwarka: This seat looks to be an easy sweep for the BJP as its candidate Pabubha Manek has never lost an election from here – winning it consecutively seven times, since 1990. The last time, he defeated the Congress’s Meraman Goriya by 5,739 votes. This time, the Congress has given the ticket to Mulu Kandoriya, the leader from Ahir community who had fought against Manek in 2012 also but had lost to the BJP MLA by 5616 votes. Ahirs make up the largest group of voters in this constituency (around 52,000). They are followed by another OBC group, Sathvaras (40,000), with Vaghers, the community Manek hails from, third at around 25,000. Muslims, mainly concentrated in Okha, Bet Dwarka and the Rupen harbour, are only partially behind, at around 24,000, followed by Dalits (15,000).