Gujarat polls 2017 is all about community votebank: Here's what BJP, Congress candidate lists tell us

Battling disgruntled ticket aspirants, notes of discords from within, and some last minute defectors, the ruling BJP and the Congress finally released their final list of candidates on Monday — the last day of filing nominations for the second phase of Gujarat polls.

Congress, BJP drop out nine sitting MLAs

While the Congress has dropped four of its sitting MLAs, the BJP left out five of its sitting MLAs with former chief minister Anandiben Patel among them. Anandiben, the legislator from Ghatlodia seat of Ahmedabad city and also a minister in the outgoing Cabinet, had earlier announced that she would not contest the polls this year.

Apart from Anandiben, the BJP has dropped minister Rohit Patel from Anand seat. The other MLAs who have not been given tickets are Nagarji Thakor, RM Patel and Vinchhia Bhuria, PTI reported.

In Congress, the sitting MLAs who have not been given tickets are Dharshi Khanpura, Hira Patel, Joitabhai Patel and Natvarsinh Thakor. For Mahudha seat, held by Natvarsinh Thakor since long, the party has chosen his son Indrajitsinh Thakor.

 Gujarat polls 2017 is all about community votebank: Heres what BJP, Congress candidate lists tell us

Congress and BJP have both dropped few sitting MLAs and mostly played it safe. However, this election has seen a marked change in Congress strategy which has refrained from reaching out to Muslims explicitly. Reuters

Congress backs Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani

The main Opposition Congress, while releasing its final list of 14 candidates, left two seats for allies and backed Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani who is contesting as an Independent. The party did not field its nominee in Vadgam seat of Banaskantha — a seat reserved for Scheduled Caste candidates — in support of Mevani, who led the Dalit stir against the BJP government in Gujarat.

This election, community over religion

It is no coincidence that nobody is talking about the Muslim vote bank this election season. The BJP is never known to explicitly woo the minority community; the Muslim voter has looked at the Congress as its only support.  However, the Congress, this season adapted a different strategy — prioritising winnability over anything else.

And caste-based movements across Gujarat in the recent past — the Dalit protests after the Una flogging incident and the Patidar agitation — have sent the Muslims to the sidelines. And poll math only warrants a change in strategy.

Muslim leaders in the Congress, too, are aware of the change in strategy as they cautiously defend the choice. According to The Indian Express, Congress' Muslim leaders said that it is part of its electoral strategy to avoid being projected as overtly pro-Muslim. This is being seen as a preventive move lest BJP tries to exploit such an image to mobilise the Hindu vote.

Firstpost report also suggested that the insecurity amid Muslims is on the rise. According to India Today, Gujarat has at least 20 constituencies which have a sizeable Muslim population which can influence the  electoral outcomes.

The BJP has not given a ticket to any Muslim, while the Congress has fielded six candidates from the community.

Muslims account for 9.6 percent of the state’s population, as per 2011 Census data, however, they have a sizeable population in at least 66 assembly constituencies, with the Muslim population varying from 10 percent to over 60 percent, as per The Times of India report which extrapolated the Census data.

Congress has fielded OBC leader Alpesh Zala (Thakor), popularly known as Alpesh Thakor, in Radhanpur constituency. Radhanpur is a bastion of the Thakor community and is currently held by the BJP. Thakor recently joined the Congress in the presence of party vice-president Rahul Gandhi.

The Congress has been wooing community leaders like Hardik Patel of the Patidar quota agitation, Mevani and Thakor to dislodge the BJP, which has been in power in the state for over two decades.

Payoff time for Chotubhai Vasava

The Congress has not fielded any of its candidates for five seats, including four reserved for Scheduled Tribes (STs) under the seat-sharing agreement with its ally Bharatiya Tribal Party headed by former JD(U) MLA Chhotubhai Vasava. Vasava was the man who had pulled out Congress' Rajya Sabha MP Ahmed Patel from the jaws of defeat as the ruling BJP threw all its might ensure Ahmed's loss.

Sources close to him had suggested that Vasava was flexing muscles to have a larger share of the cake as a payoff for ensuring Ahmed's win. He had actually asked for 19 seats and was adamant on getting at least 15 seats. Vasava's party is contesting five seats in the two-phase polls.

For the first phase, the Congress has fielded its candidates for 86 out of the 89 seats, leaving out Jhaghadia, Dediapada and Mangrol seats — all reserved for Scheduled Tribe — for Vasava's party.

For the second phase, the Congress gave two constituenices — Morvahadaf (ST) of Panchmahal and Waghodia seat of Vadodara — to Vasava's party. Both are currently held by the BJP.

The 89 seats of Saurashtra and South Gujarat region are going to polls in the first phase while the remaining 93 seats, in central and northern region, will figure in the second phase. The polling for the 182-member Assembly will take place on  9 and 14 December and the votes will be counted on 18 December.

Former Gujarat Congress president Siddharth Patel has been nominated for Dabhoi seat of Vadodara district while senior high court lawyer and party leader Babu Mangukia, who had fought Hardik's sedition case initially, has been chosen for the Thakkar Nagar seat in Ahmedabad city.

BJP rewards defectors with tickets

The ruling BJP  has given tickets to Tejashariben Patel, the former Congress MLA who joined the saffron party earlier this year, and Kanu Makvana, the son of former Congress MLA Karamshi Makvana, who had crossed over to the BJP during the Rajya Sabha elections. The BJP has also made space for another Congress defector Amitbhai Chaudhary, who had defeated a BJP candidate from Mansa constituency in the previous Assembly election, according to Hindustan Times.

Other Congress defectors who have found place on BJP candidate list include Raghavji Patel, Dharmendrasinh Jadeja, CK Raolji, Mansinh Chauhan and Ramsinh Parmar.

In its sixth and final list, the party has given tickets to 12 sitting MLAs.

The party has set to rest speculations and renominated Chief Minister Vijay Rupani from Rajkot (West), his deputy Nitin Patel from Mehsana and state party chief Jitu Vaghani from Bhavnagar (West).

The BJP has fielded Bhupendra Patel from Ghatlodia, represented by Anandiben, while senior leader Kaushik Patel has been given the ticket from Naranpura, which was earlier represented by party president Amit Shah. Shah had resigned as MLA after his election to the Rajya Sabha. Former minister and BJP spokesperson Jaynarayan Vyas will be contesting from Siddhpur, from where he had lost in the 2012 polls and the party has fielded Gujarati film actor Hiteshbhai Kanodiya, son of former BJP MLA Naresh Kanodiya, from Ider constituency in Sabarkantha district. Kanodiya too had lost the previous elections from Kadi constituency.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Nov 28, 2017 17:34:17 IST