Gujarat elections: BJP releases first list of 70 candidates

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New Delhi/Ahmadabad: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has decided that chief minister Vijay Rupani will spearhead its push in the Gujarat assembly election and contest the Rajkot West seat, which he had won in a bypoll in 2014.

The BJP leadership released the names of candidates for 70 out of the state’s 182 constituencies on Friday, two days after its central election committee met to finalise the list.

The two-phase Gujarat election will take place on 9 and 14 December, and votes will be counted on 18 December.

Rupani has been closely associated with Rajkot, which is located in the Saurashtra region. During the 2012 assembly election, Rupani had overseen the campaign in Saurashtra for then chief minister Narendra Modi although he did not contest the election himself. Saurashtra goes to the polls in the first phase of the election.

Rupani, who was appointed CM in August 2016, served as mayor of Rajkot in 1996. The constituency was earlier represented by Vajubhai Rudabhai Vala, the present governor of Karnataka. In the bypoll three years ago, Rupani won the seat with an impressive margin of over 23,000 votes.

The seat is also significant as it was held by Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he entered state politics and has been a BJP bastion in Saurashtra.

The decision to nominate Rupani from Rajkot West is also important because Rajkot is an important city in the Saurashtra region, which has traditionally been a BJP bastion because of the continued support of the Patel community, especially the Leuva Patels, who have a large population in this region.

The Patels have been instrumental in keeping the BJP in power for 22 years. But this time, a section of the community has become estranged from the party because of the state government’s refusal to concede its demand for education and job quotas. The Patel community plays a decisive role in at least 50 of the state’s assembly constituencies.

The 70 names in the BJP’s first list include Nitinbhai Patel, deputy chief minister of Gujarat, who will contest from his current seat Mehsana, an important constituency; the ongoing Patel agitation for quotas began in this district. Also, Modi belongs to Vadnagar, a city in Mehsana district.

The list also includes Jitendrabhai Savjibhai Vaghani or Jitubhai Vaghani, state BJP president, who will contest from Bhavnagar West constituency, which he had also represented in the 2012 polls.

The BJP leadership has also given a ticket to former Congress member Ramsinh Parbhatsinh Parmar to contest from the Thasra constituency. Parmar had contested the 2012 assembly elections from the same seat as a representative of the Congress. Another Congress rebel, Raghavji Hansraj Patel, will again contest from Jamnagar Rural for the BJP. Former Congress member of the legislative assembly (MLA), CK Raulji, will fight on a BJP ticket in the Godhra constituency.

Among the new faces in the list of candidates list is businessman Dhanjibhai Patel, chairman of Surendranagar based Makson Group.

According to its official website, Makson has been making candies, lollipops and other sweets as a contract manufacturer for the local units of multinational companies such as Nestle SA, Lotte Group, GlaxoSmithKline Plc, Unilever, Procter & Gamble Co., Boots UK Ltd, as well as Indian companies.