The first list of Congress candidates for the Gujarat elections with 77 names was announced on Sunday. The list underscored the importance of the Patidar quota agitation as it gave tickets to three members of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) and three Patidar corporators of Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) who won civic elections after the agitation.
A former BJP member and a Janata Dal (United) office-bearer also got tickets. There are three Muslims and two women on the list. The party also gave a ticket to a textile businessman who was part of the agitation against GST.
The announcement of the list triggered protests in Surat as PAAS supporters and leaders attacked the office of Praful Togadia, a candidate and cousin of VHP leader Pravin Togadia, where Rahul Gandhi had addressed a public meeting. They also attacked the office of Nilesh Kumbhani, the SMC corporator, in Yogi Chowk, demanding more tickets. Dinesh Bhambhaniya, known to be close to PAAS convener Hardik Patel, however, claimed before some TV channels that the PAAS had clearly refused to contest the elections and was heard saying that they would oppose the Congress.
Police have been deployed at the residence of Solanki, in view of likelihood of violence.
The Congress has repeated all 14 of its MLAs from among the 77 seats which go to polls on December 9.
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi had promised during his Gujarat visit that the party would give tickets to all its MLAs.
It was part of the reward deal for voting in favour of Ahmed Patel in Rajya Sabha elections in August this year.
The dispute in seat-sharing with its new alliance partners delayed the Congress’s list.
Apart from the JD(U) faction, which will now have to contest on another symbol with the EC refusing it the symbol of the party, the Congress had for the first time struck a deal with PAAS, sensing opportunity in the Patidar community’s disenchantment with the BJP.
Lalit Vasoya, a PAAS convener, has been given the ticket from Dhoraji, while the PAAS Junagadh convenor Amit Thummar has been fielded from Junagadh. Jignesh Mewasa, a PAAS convenor, got the ticket for Katagram. Vasoya is known to be a close aide of Hardik.
Four corporators of SMC, Nilesh Kumbhani (Kamrej), Dinesh Kachhadiya (Surat North), Jignesh Mewasa (Katagram), Nitin Bharucha (Surat East) and Satish Patel (Udhna) have been given tickets — the first three being Patidars — apart from textile businessman Ashok Kothari (Majura) who was in the delegation that went to meet former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the peak of the anti-GST agitation.
Among the sitting MLAs who have been repeated are Shaktisinh Gohil, who has shifted from his constituency of Abdasa in Kutch to Mandvi in the same district. Indranil Rajyaguru who has been fielded from Rajkot West will challenge Chief Minister Vijay Rupani.
Here is the first list of 77 candidates for the Gujarat Election 2017: