NEW DELHI: The BJP on Tuesday released its first list of 70 candidates for the Gujarat elections taking great care to address the caste equation in the state. The list included 17 Patidar nominees, besides five Congress rebels who had switched sides during the biennial Rajya Sabha elections.
While the first list gives a semblance that the BJP is sticking with sitting legislators, sources in the party advised caution in drawing any conclusion, saying about 40 sitting MLAs would face the axe when names for all the 182 seats are out.
The first list of the BJP has seats that the party had listed as Category A (highly safe), which included chief minister Vijay Rupani (Rajkot West), deputy chief minister Nitin Patel (Mehsana) and state unit chief Jitubhai Vaghani (Bhavnagar West). It has renominated 15 ministers in the Rupani Cabinet to contest from their respective constituencies.
The shadow of Himachal Pradesh, however, threatens to loom large in Gujarat, as the party fielded only three women candidates — Ramilaben Becharbhai Bara (Khedbrahma), Manishaben Vakil (Vadodra), and Sangitaben Rajendrabhai Patil (Limbayat) — in the first list.
The BJP rewarded Congress rebels who had bolted when the party chief had launched a spirited attempt to stall the bid of his arch-rival Ahmed Patel from winning the Rajya Sabha biennial elections. Five Congress rebels — Raghavji Patel, Dharmendrasinh Jadeja, C K Raolji, Mansinh Chouhan and Ramsinh Parmar — found mention in the first list. Eight Congress MLAs had joined the BJP after the Rajya Sabha polls. The party is likely to accommodate three other remaining Congress legislators.
The BJP has denied renomination to MLAs Varsha Doshi (Wadhwan) and Bhavna Makwana (Mahuva).
The Central Election Committee of the BJP in its meeting on Tuesday — which was presided over by party chief Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi — had given the nod to nominees for Gujarat elections. The first list consisted of 42 seats going to polls in the first phase on December 7 and 28 in the second phase on December 14. The counting of votes is slated for December 18.
The first list of the BJP clearly hints that the party is making a determined bid to block the Congress’ attempt for consolidation of Patidar, OBCs and tribals by re-engineering the old KHAM (Kshatriya, Dalit, Adivasi and Muslims) formula.
With Patidar, Koli and tribals constituting a substantial chunk of the electorate in Gujarat, the BJP appears to have attempted to strike a right balance in ticket distribution in the first list. The BJP is expected to release the names of remaining candidates over the weekend, as the last date for filing of nomination in the first phase is November 21.