Gujarat and Himachal polls: An overview
With most of the senior leaders including former Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani opting out of the electoral race, Bharatiya Janata Party on Thursday released its first list of 160 candidates for the assembly elections.
The list includes chief minister Bhupendra Patel, from Ghatlodiya, home minister Harsh Sanghavi from Majura, Patidar leader Hardik Patel from Viramgam and cricketer Ravindra Jadeja’s wife Rivaba from Jamnagar North. Several cabinet ministers Jitu Vaghani, Rushikesh Patel, Jagdish Vishwakarma, Kanu Desai, Purnesh Modi and Kiritsinh Rana have been retained in the list.
Out of the 160 candidates, 84 will be facing polls on December 1 in the first phase, while 76 candidates will face polls in the second phase on December 5. The decision on the remaining 22 seats will be taken later by the BJP Central Election Committee. 69 sitting MLAs have got tickets this time, while 38 MLAs have been replaced with new faces.
Out of these 69 sitting MLAs, 17 are those who have joined BJP in the last ten years. They include Bhagwanbhai Barad from Talala, who resigned from Congress and joined BJP on Wednesday. Congressman Mohansinh Rathwa, who joined BJP along with his two sons on Tuesday, has got a ticket for his son Rajendrasinh from the Chhota Udepur seat.
OBC leader Alpesh Thakor, who had joined BJP, is yet to get a ticket. Eleven sitting MLAs from Ahmedabad and all four MLAs from Rajkot city have been denied tickets. Brijesh Merja, the BJP MLA from Morbi, where the hanging bridge collapse incident killed 135 people, has been denied a ticket this time. The ticket has been given to Kantilal Amrutia, former MLA, who jumped into the Machhu river in order to rescue people after the bridge collapsed.
On Tuesday evening, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, BJP President JP Nadda joined the Central Election Committee meeting to finalize the list of candidates, news came from Ahmedabad that former CM Vijay Rupani, former deputy CM Nitin Patel, former ministers nine times winner Bhupendrasinh Chudasama, Pradip Singh Jadeja, RC Faldu, Saurabh Patel, Kaushik Patel and Yogesh Patel announced that they have opted out of the electoral race and would work for the party.
These senior leaders said, ‘others should be given a chance’. In other words, the party leadership has decided to give these leaders a graceful exit. Chudasama said, he had been a cabinet minister for five terms, and due to old age, he has decided that young workers should get the chance. He however said, he has not ‘retired’ but would work for the organization. A similar statement came from Nitin Patel who said, younger leaders should now get a chance.
The message is clear: BJP leadership wants to give chance to new and younger faces. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has been the chief minister of Gujarat for 13 years, knows the background of each and every constituency. He knows whom to field and how to win elections in Gujarat.
The people of Gujarat trust Modi deeply, and they cast their votes for BJP because of this sense of trust. It does not matter which candidate is fielded. There is no other leader in the country today who has the courage to remove senior leaders from ministerial posts and then advise them not to contest the election.
Some people may ask since these senior leaders have been winning elections for several terms, what if they revolt and cause damage to BJP?
The answer is: One, there is no other leader of the stature of Modi in Gujarat BJP, Two, the party organization in every district is so strong that no leader can even dare to revolt. This is the reason why senior leaders of the party publicly declared that they are opting out of the electoral race. It is now up to Modi to decide where to adjust these senior leaders after the elections are over.
Meanwhile, good news has come for BJP from Gujarat’s tribal areas. Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP) leader Chhotubhai Basava announced that he would not contest elections, and he would field his son. Chhotubhai Basava has a good base in Bharuch and Narmada districts and he has won elections seven times since 1990. A popular tribal leader, his image is that of a Robin Hood.
In the 2017 elections, BTP allied with Congress, and it was Chhotubhai Basava’s crucial vote that helped Congress leader Late Ahmed Patel win the Rajya Sabha election. Of late, Basava has maintained a distance from Congress, and this could indirectly help the BJP. On the other hand, with one more MLA Bhagwanbhai Barad quitting and joining BJP, Congress is staring at an exodus. On Tuesday, ten-time Congress MLA and tribal leader Mohansinh Rathva resigned and joined BJP.
Before attending the CEC meeting in Delhi on Wednesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed two election rallies at Kangra and Hamirpur in Himachal Pradesh. In both rallies, he attacked Congress and said, “Congress is the guarantee for instability, corruption and scams”.
Modi told voters that the Congress is now ruling in only two states (Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh), while states like Tamil Nadu, Odisha, West Bengal, UP and Gujarat have discarded Congress since decades. “People have kept Congress out of power for so many decades because they have so much anger against the party”, Modi said.
Modi asked the voters of Himachal Pradesh to do the same and not allow Congress to return to power. There were huge crowds in both the rallies. Kangra and Hamirpur districts account for 21 seats together.
Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge also addressed two rallies, where he promised to reintroduce the old pension scheme. Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot and Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel also addressed party rallies.
Gehlot alleged that unemployment was increasing and on the other hand, the BJP government has abolished the old pension scheme. He promised that the old pension scheme will be implemented, and one lakh jobs will be given if Congress returned to power.
Mallikarjun Kharge said Modi was not speaking about the number of jobs that have been given to unemployed youths. Khadge said, “BJP is the guarantee for unemployment”. He alleged that there were nearly 14 lakh posts vacant across India and nearly 65,000 jobs vacant in HP, but youths are not getting jobs.
One must understand why Modi focussed too much on Congress at his rallies. Congress is giving a tough fight to BJP and the latest opinion poll on India TV clearly shows there is a straight contest between both parties. India TV opinion poll has predicted that BJP may get between 38 to 43 seats, while Congress may get 24 to 29 seats, while other parties may get only one to three seats.
The opinion poll clearly shows that Aam Aadmi Party has failed to make any headway in the state. Other opinion polls have also forecasted a close fight between BJP and Congress. Had the Congress leadership put in some more effort, the party could have forged ahead in the electoral race. It appears that the Congress leadership is not in the mood to give a strong fight in Himachal Pradesh.
Rahul Gandhi, who is the star campaigner for Congress, was nowhere to be seen in the Himachal electoral scene. He was busy walking in his ‘Bharat Jodo’ padayatra in the South. Not a single senior Congress leader had no cogent reply to the query as to why Rahul did not start his Yatra from Himachal Pradesh.
Several top Congress leaders came to Himachal Pradesh and addressed rallies, but the overall campaign was lacklustre and appeared to be jaded and tired. Congress has a good base in Himachal Pradesh and the party has active workers in each block and district. The Congress leadership will have much to answer for if it fails to put up a good fight. Polling in Himachal Pradesh is on Saturday, November 12, and the people will decide whether to retain BJP for the next five years or opt for Congress.
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