The Bharatiya Janata Party on Thursday released its first list of 160 candidates for the assembly elections, with most senior leaders including former Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani out of the electoral race.
The list includes Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel from Ghatlodia, Home Minister Harsh Sanghvi from Majura, Patidar leader Hardik Patel from Viramgam and Rivaba, wife of cricketer Ravindra Jadeja from Jamnagar North. Several cabinet ministers like Jitu Vaghani, Rushikesh Patel, Jagdish Vishwakarma, Kanu Desai, Purnesh Modi and Kritsinh Rana have been retained in the list of candidates.
Out of the list of 160 candidates announced, 84 candidates will be in the fray in the first phase on December 1, while 76 candidates will face voting in the second phase on December 5. The decision on the remaining 22 seats will be taken by the BJP Central Election Committee later. This time 69 sitting MLAs have got tickets, while new faces have been included in place of 38 MLAs.
Of these 69 sitting MLAs, 17 are those who have joined the BJP in the last ten years. Among them is Talala’s Bhagwanbhai Brar, who resigned from the Congress on Wednesday and joined the BJP. Congress leader Mohan Singh Rathwa, who joined BJP along with his two sons on Tuesday, has managed to get his son Rajendra Singh ticket from Chhota Udaipur seat.
OBC leader Alpesh Thakor, who joined BJP, is yet to get a ticket. Eleven sitting MLAs from Ahmedabad and all four MLAs from Rajkot city have not been given tickets in the list. Brijesh Merja, the BJP MLA from Morbi, who came into the limelight recently due to the bridge collapse incident, has also not been given a ticket this time. Former MLA Kantilal Amrutia, who jumped into the Machu river in an attempt to save people after the bridge collapsed, has been given a ticket.
On Tuesday evening, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, BJP President JP Nadda were present in the meeting of the Central Election Committee to finalize the list of candidates, news came from Ahmedabad that former CM Vijay Rupani, former deputy CM Nitin Patel, former minister and nine-time MLA Bhupendrasinh Chudasama, Pradeep Singh Jadeja, RC Faldu, Saurabh Patel, Kaushik Patel and Yogesh Patel announced their exclusion from the electoral race and said they would now work for the party.
These senior leaders said that now ‘others’ should be given a chance. In other words, the party leadership has decided to bid a dignified farewell to these leaders. Chudasama said, he was a cabinet minister for five terms and considering his old age, he has decided to give opportunities to young workers. However, he said, he has not ‘retired’, and will work for the organisation. A similar statement also came from Nitin Patel, he said, “Young leaders should now get a chance.
The message is clear: the BJP leadership now wants to give a chance to new and young faces. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has been the Chief Minister of Gujarat for 13 years, knows the background of each constituency. He knows who to field in Gujarat and how to win elections. The people of the state have deep faith in Modi, and they have voted for BJP only because of their faith in Modi. It does not matter which candidate is fielded. There is no other leader in the country today who has the courage to remove senior leaders from ministerial posts and then advise them not to contest elections.
Some may ask, since these leaders have been winning elections many times, and what if they revolt and harm the BJP?
The answer is that firstly, there is no other leader of Modi’s stature in Gujarat BJP, secondly, the organization of the party is so strong in every district that no leader can even dare to rebel. This is the reason why senior party leaders have publicly declared that they are out of the electoral race. Now it is for Modi to decide where to accommodate these senior leaders after the elections are over.
Meanwhile, good news has come for the BJP from the tribal areas of Gujarat. Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP) leader Chhotubhai Basava announced that he will not contest the elections this time and will field his son. Chhotubhai Baswa has a strong hold in Bharuch and Narmada districts and has won seven elections since 1990. He is a popular tribal leader, and his image here is that of Robin Hood.
In the 2017 elections, the BTP allied with the Congress, and it was Chhotubhai Basava’s crucial vote that helped Congress leader late Ahmed Patel win the Rajya Sabha election. Recently, Basava has kept a distance from the Congress, so this may indirectly help the BJP. On the other hand, after another MLA Bhagatbhai Brar joined the BJP, the sequence of migration in the Congress continues. On Tuesday, ten-time Congress MLA and tribal leader Mohansinh Rathwa resigned and joined the BJP.
Before attending the CEC meeting in Delhi on Wednesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed two election rallies in Himachal Pradesh’s Kangra and Hamirpur. In both the rallies, he lashed out at the Congress and said, “Congress is a guarantee of instability, corruption and scams”.
Modi told voters that the Congress is now ruling only two states (Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh), while states like Tamil Nadu, Odisha, West Bengal, UP and Gujarat have left the Congress for the past several decades. “People have kept Congress out of power for so many decades because they have a lot of anger against the party,” Modi said.
Modi asked the voters of Himachal Pradesh to do the same and not allow the Congress to come back to power. Huge crowds were seen in both the rallies. There are total 21 seats in Kangra and Hamirpur district.
Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge also addressed two rallies, where he promised to re-implement the old pension scheme. Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot and Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel also addressed the party’s rallies.
Gehlot alleged that unemployment is increasing and on the other hand the BJP government has abolished the old pension scheme. He promised that the old pension scheme would be implemented and one lakh jobs would be given if Congress returned to power.
Mallikarjun Kharge said, Modi was not talking about the number of jobs given to unemployed youth. Kharge said, “BJP is the guarantee of unemployment”. He alleged that around 14 lakh posts are vacant across India and about 65,000 posts are vacant in Himachal Pradesh, but youth are not getting jobs.
We must understand why Modi has paid so much attention to Congress in his rallies. The Congress is giving a tough fight to the BJP and the latest opinion polls on India TV clearly show that there is a direct contest between these two parties. India TV Opinion Poll has predicted that BJP may get 38 to 43 seats, while Congress may get 24 to 29 seats, while other parties may get only one to three seats.
Opinion polls clearly show that the Aam Aadmi Party is failing to make any dent in the state. There are several other opinion polls which have predicted a close contest between the BJP and the Congress. Had the Congress leadership made some more effort, the party could have gone ahead in the electoral race. The Congress leadership seems to be in no mood to give a tough fight.
Rahul Gandhi, who is a star campaigner, was nowhere to be seen in Himachal’s electoral scenario. He was busy in his ‘Bharat Jodo’ padyatra in South India. Not a single senior Congress leader has any concrete answer to the question as to why Rahul did not start his journey from Himachal Pradesh.
Many top Congress leaders came to Himachal Pradesh and addressed rallies, but overall the campaign was monotonous and looked tiring. Congress has a good base in Himachal Pradesh and the party has its workers in every block and district. If the party fails to give a tough fight, the party leadership will have to give a slew of answers. Himachal Pradesh goes to the polls on Saturday, November 12 and the people will decide whether to give another chance to the BJP or choose the Congress. (Rajat Sharma)
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