NEW DELHI: By fielding 33 Patidar candidates in the Gujarat polls so far and denying nominations to 29 sitting legislators, the BJP appears to be sticking with its strategy of preventing the numerically strong Patels from turning against the party, and attempting to blunt anti-incumbency with fresh faces.
In its three lists naming 134 candidates out of a total of 182, the BJP has included 33 Patidar candidates. In the outgoing Assembly, the BJP has 44 Patidar MLAs. With Tuesday being the last day for filing of nomination papers for the first phase of the election on December 9, the BJP is apparently drawing comfort from the emerging rift between Patidar leader Hardik Patel and the Congress. The Patidar strongholds of Saurashtra and South Gujarat will go to the polls in the first phase.
In its third list, released on Monday, the BJP denied nominations to 14 sitting MLAs, including three ministers in the Vijay Rupani Cabinet. The party dropped ministers Jayanti Kavadia, Vallabh Vaghasia and Nanu Vanani in the third list. The BJP is yet to announce the names of 48 candidates for seats to be contested in the second phase of the poll on December 14. The party denied nominations to 15 sitting MLAs in its first two lists.
The third list includes former state finance minister Saurabh Patel, who was earlier dropped from the Vijay Rupani Cabinet. State Assembly Speaker Ramanbhai Vora, who is seen as the Dalit face of the party, also figures in the third list, as does former state unit chief R C Faldu.
The BJP is likely to release the names of candidates for the remaining constituencies this week. In a meeting last Wednesday, the central election committee of the BJP had approved the names of candidates for the Gujarat election. The meeting was presided over by BJP chief Amit Shah.