Before the two major parties announce their candidates for Gujarat, the scramble within has come out in the open over the last few days. A section of the BJP observed a bandh in Una town of Gir Somnath Thursday following rumours that a popular leader would be passed over. From the Congress, two state general secretaries have joined the BJP, one of them complaining of “outsiders”.
In Una, the race in the BJP is between former MLA Kalu Rathod, who has dominated politics in Una municipality for a decade, and emerging leader Hari Solanki, a member of Gir Somnath district panchayat who belongs to the Koli community that dominates the seat. The bandh was called by Rathod’s supporters following rumours that Solanki might get the ticket.
The Congress leaders who have joined the BJP are Vijay Kella of Ahmedabad and Kashmira Nathwani. Kella, who quit Wednesday, expressed resentment against Gujarat Congress chief Bharatsinh Solanki and the “undue attention to “outsiders”.
Nathwani, of Rajkot, had contested three consecutive polls before being denied the Congress ticket in 2012. Rajkot’s seats are witnessing intense infighting in the Congress. Rajkot East MLA Indranil Rajyaguru has declared his intent to challenge Chief Minister Vijay Rupani from Rajkot West. Congress corporator Mansukh Kalariya too is known to be keen to contest; what may go against him is that Rajyaguru is president of the party’s Rajkot city unit.
Congress sources claimed to have reports that the party would renominate 38 of the 43 MLAs who had voted for Ahmed Patel in the Rajya Sabha elections, while conveying to the other five that it would field their sons or daughters or candidates they recommend.
Seats of some MLAs might be changed, the sources said. AICC spokesperson Shaktisinh Gohil, the Abdasa MLA, is now being discussed as a possible candidate from Mandvi in Kutch. Local leaders have reportedly been told to start preparations there.
Former state party president Arjun Modhwadia had lost from Porbandar in 2012 but party sources expect him to be renominated. In 2002 and 2007, when Narendra Modi dominated Gujarat politics, Modhwadia had defeated the BJP’s Babubhai Bokhiria, now a minister. Bokhiria, incidentally, fielded his wife Jyotiben as a dummy candidate from Porbandar Thursday; PTI quoted him as saying she withdraw once the BJP finalises its candidate.
BJP mayors Gautam Shah (Ahmedabad), Jaiman Upadhyay (Rajkot), Bharat Dangar (Vadodara) too are in the race for tickets. Gautam Shah is being talked of in Naranpura, the seat vacated by BJP president Amit Shah.
At least three sets of candidate lists have been circulating on social media over the last two weeks, claiming to be BJP selections for the 89 seats that are voting in the first phase. Party spokesperson I K Jadeja, however, has said these are not “official”.
Congress Legislature Party leader Mohansinh Rathwa, MLA from Chhotaudepur, is up against another contender —former MoS (Railways) Naran Rathwa would like the ticket for his son Sangramsinh. Party sources hinted at a compromise with the possibility of Mohansinh Rathwa being fielded from adjoining Pavi Jetpur.
Former Vadodara city Congress president Narendra Rawat is said to be pitching for the ticket to Sayajigunj, currently held by BJP. In Vyara in Tapi, a strong case for renomination is being made out for the Congress’s lone Christian MLA, Punabhai Gamit, who had alleged that then Tapi SP N K Amin had asked him to vote for the BJP in the Rajya Sabha elections.