Winnability and caste combination remains the prime criteria for the BJP in Gujarat, as it appears from the first list of 160 candidates that the Party declared on Thursday. Also, the first list has a clear, authoritative stamp of selection of none other than Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
Gujarat has 182 Assembly constituencies that go to polls in two phases on December 1 and 5. The results will be out on December 8. Primarily, Gujarat politics has been a dual-party one so far but this year, the Aam Aadmi Party has aggressively forayed into the electoral fray.
Shahenshah’s Stamp of Approval
The first list released today, sources confirmed, makes it clear that Union Home Minister Amit Shah has given all the possible time and attention to pick out the best available candidates. In fact, several names in the list clearly indicate that State BJP president C R Paatil’s suggestions have been completely ignored.
An ex Congress leader, now in the BJP told Vibes of India, “when I had left the Congress for the BJP, I had been assured that I will be given a ticket. In fact, I know at least five other Congress MLAs who were told the same. However, in between, Gujarat State BJP Chief C R Paatil made public assertions and sent us private signals that we would not be given tickets”.
According to this MLA from Saurashtra, “when we joined the BJP severing our decade-plus association with Congress, we had been assured by Amitbhai Shah that we would be treated with respect and given tickets. However, we had not been feeling comfortable of late”.
The MLA was all praise for Union Minister Shah and said, “Amitbhai has stood by his commitment. All those whom he promised tickets have got them. It is not just out of commitment, but he understands caste combinations brilliantly”.
Several Ministers, present and former Dropped
This includes former chief minister Vijay Rupani, former deputy chief minister Nitin Patel, former Home Minister Pradipsinh Jadeja and five present ministers such as law minister Rajendra Trivedi, social justice and empowerment minister Pradeep Parmar, transport minister Arvind Raiyani, rural development minister, labour and employment minister Brijesh Merja and MoS social justice minister Raghavji Makvana–have been dropped.
Uncertainty depends on whether Mahmedabad MLA and current minister of rural development Arjunsinh Chauhan would get a ticket or not. His name has yet not been announced.
Blend of Old and New
Today’s BJP list includes 38 new names in place of 38 sitting MLAs that have been dropped in the first list.But it is not that all the 38 names announced in the list are political novices. At least 19 of them have been MLAs in the past.
The BJP named its candidates for 84 of the 89 seats in the first phase, and 76 of 93 candidates in the second phase. At least 38 sitting MLAs have been dropped.
Hardik Patel gets a ticket
The face of Patidar Andolan of Gujarat who ensured the ouster of then chief minister Anandiben Patel and put the BJP in embarrassment is now the BJP candidate from Viramgam. Hardik was earlier with Congress but quit the party and joined the BJP in June, 2022.
OBC Alpesh Thakor also gets “rewarded”.
Another young leader who had waged a war against the BJP government claiming that it deliberately let bootleggers do business in Gujarat and morally corrupt the youth , Alpesh Thakor has also been given a BJP ticket. In 2017, Alpesh and his Thakor Sena had waged a spirited fight against spurious liquor in dry Gujarat. Now Alpesh has been given a BJP ticket from Gandhinagar South.
Jignesh Mewani will face tough fight this election
The BJP’s decision to file Manibhai Vaghela from Vadgam, an assembly constituency reserved for scheduled caste and represented by social activist Jignesh Mewani may make the election tough for Mewani. Manibhai was associated with Congress for over 10 years.
However, after Congress decided to support independent candidate Jignesh Mewani in 2017, he supported the party but gradually found himself being grossly neglected by Mewani and Congress party. He then joined BJP. The BJP has smartly given him a ticket from Vadgam in North Gujarat.
This time, the party has declared 13 candidates from the scheduled caste, 24 from the scheduled tribe, 14 women, and 69 sitting members of the assembly. The party has replaced 38 candidates with new faces.
CR Paatil’s earlier ticket criteria not adhered to
BJP State President C R Paatil had announced a series of conditions for tickets and various parameters including age and positions held in the Party. He had once also mentioned that those who had contested an assembly election more than four times or had lost twice would not be given tickets. He had also indicated that first preference would be given to party workers and cadres and not those who had “exported themselves to the BJP from Congress”.
However, all 16 Congress MLAs who had switched sides have been given tickets. Also there are at least half a dozen candidates who have contested Assembly elections more than four times. These include Keshubhai Nakrani who has been representing BJP consistently since 1995 mainly from Gariyadhar in Saurashtra and Babu Jamna Patel, a builder from Daskroi who has been given ticket since 2002.
Cricketer Ravindra Jadeja’s wife gets Lucky.
Rivaba Jadeja, wife of Cricketer Ravindra Jadeja has been given a ticket from Jamnagar in Saurashtra. Hakubha Jadeja, a notorious MLA has been dropped to give her the ticket.
But who will be the BJP candidate from Khambhaliya?
The BJP is waiting and watching. AAP has declared Isudan Gadhvi as their CM face. Isudan hails from Khambaliya and is a popular figure here. Though Khambhaliya goes to polls in the first phase, the BJP has not declared their candidate. They want to play safe here. Sources tells Vibes of India (Vo!) if AAP fields Isudan from Khambhaliya, BJP may field a high profile MP to take on the AAP CM candidate. There is a buzz that if Isudan contests from Khambhaliya, BJP may field Jamnagar MP Poonamben Madam who would be a sure shot winner against Gadhvi. AAP sources claim that AAP may field Gadhvi from two different constituencies. The constituencies being discussed are Khambhaliya, Dwarka and a constituency in Kutch. “The BJP is absolutely clear. They do not want Isudan to win at any cost. In fact, we want him to lose his deposit,” a senior BJP leader told Vo! adding that completely crushing AAP’s Chief Ministerial candidate will send a very positive signal for 2024 Lok Sabha polls too.
Bilkis Bano fame Raolji gets ticket
C K Raolji who was a member in the committee set up to look into the early release of the rapists of Bilkis Bano is a sitting BJP MLA from Godhra. He has been “repeated” and given a ticket. “We took “sense” and our surveys indicate that he will win handsomely and hence he has been given a ticket”, a BJP spokesperson said.
Dynasty in BJP ticket allocation in Gujarat
The BJP may be crying hoarse about dynasty in Delhi but in Gujarat, since it is just winnability and a caste combination that can achieve that, what matters, at least in two cases, the party has openly favoured dynasties.
For the fourth consecutive time, the Jadejas of Gondal have been given tickets. Twice it was Jairajsinh who was given a ticket. Now his wife Gitaba has been again repeated and given a ticket. Similarly, considering the importance of Kolis in Gujarat, Purshottam Solanki and his brother Hira Solanki have been both given tickets again from Bhavnagar and Kodinar(Amereli district) respectively. It must be noted that senior Solanki, Purshottambhai was a minister in the Vijay Rupani cabinet. He was dropped when the entire cabinet was replaced last year with Bhupendra Patel.
Ironically, in the last five years, Purshottam Solanki has participated only once in a discussion in the State Assembly as per the House records scanned by Vibes of India.
The Unlucky Ones who have been dropped …
The party has dropped as many as 38 sitting legislators including outgoing Assembly Speaker Nimaben Acharya and Cabinet Ministers Pradip Parmar, Rajendra Trivedi and others. The party dropped 38 sitting MLAs from the first list of 160 candidates and added to the number of former senior Ministers including former Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel and former CM Vijay Rupani opting out of the polls. Top BJP leaders will not contest this election. Unlike Congress, BJP members do not rebel against the party’s high command. An individual’s capability to win and the caste arithmetic matters more than everything else.
The Morbi Bridge Saffron Rescuer Gets a Ticket
Kantilal Amritiya, the man who was the first person to jump into the Macchu river after the bridge collapsed in Morbi has been given a ticket. In 2017, Brijesh Merja contested from Congress. He then switched to the BJP. He won a bypoll in 2022. Kantilal Amrutiya was in jail in a murder case. His image of swimming in the river along with a floater while others walk by for rescue operations has been all around the net. Merja may be dropped or be given a different constituency but for Morbi, the BJP has chosen Kantilal Amritya.
Congress candidates who switched to BJP
A total of 16 candidates who quit Congress to join the BJP –were given tickets. Among the Congress, imports are Pradhyumansinh Jadeja who switched over in 2020, tribal legislator Ashwin Kotwal, who joined the saffron camp in July this year, Harshad Ribadia, who joined the party last month, Bhaga Barad and Rajendrasinh Rathwa, whose father and the senior most Gujarat MLA Mohansinh Rathwa.
Caste Composition in today’s BJP list
Today’s list of BJP candidates includes 42 Patels, 13 Brahmins, 14 Kshatriyas, 13 Koli, 14 Thakor., 13 SC and 24 ST.