Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel, cricketer Ravindra Jadeja’s wife Rivaba Jadeja and Congress turncoat Hardik Patel figure in the first list of 160 candidates announced by the ruling party for the State Assembly polls.
The party has dropped as many as 38 sitting legislators while as many Congress turncoats find the place in the list.
The BJP has fielded Rivaba Jadeja, who joined the party in 2019, as its candidate for the Jamnagar North seat for the polls, dropping current MLA Dharmendrasinh M. Jadeja, who is a Congress turncoat, after the High Court declined to withdraw criminal proceedings against him in a rioting case on Wednesday.
The ruling party has fielded Congress-import Hardik Patel from Viramgram, his home turf in Ahmedabad district seat. Mr. Patel was the face of the Patidar quota agitation and was the working president of Gujarat Congress before he moved to the ruling party in August.
Another Congress turncoat is former legislator Manibhai Vaghela, who has been fielded from Vadgam seat to take on the sitting MLA and prominent Dalit activist Jignesh Mevani from the Congress.
Former MLA fielded in Morbi
From Morbi, where a bridge collapse killed over 135 people on October 29, the party has replaced the sitting MLA and Minister Brijesh Merja, and instead selected Kanti Amrutiya, a former MLA who had lost in 2017. Mr. Merja was also a Congress turncoat who had defected to the ruling party in 2020 and was made a Minister in 2021.
Among other Congress imports are Pradhyumansinh Jadeja who had 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, who jumped to BJP on Wednesday and Rajendrasingh Rathwa, whose father and the senior most Gujarat MLA Mohansinh Rathwa who joined on Tuesday.
Others with Congress background include Balwantsinh Rajput, who had lost to late Congress stalwart Ahmed Patel in a Rajya Sabha poll in 2017, C.K. Raolji, Raghavji Patel, Mansinh Chauhan, Jitu Chaudhary, Kuvarji Bavalia, Jawahar Chavda, J.V. Kakadia and others.
Assembly Speaker Nimaben Acharya 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 160 list includes as many as 14 women including several sitting legislators.
The radical redoing of the BJP in the State is now made evident by the dropping of 38 sitting MLAs from the BJP’s first list of 160 candidates — which tots up to a massive 43% of candidates changed from the last election — and added to the number of former senior Ministers including former Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel opting out of the polls.
The change, say BJP insiders, is because of the old maxim, that to make sure things remain the same, much change has to take place. As the party has been in power for two and half decades and whole generations have no first-hand memory of a non-BJP-ruled Gujarat, the change has to be radical to combat the fatigue factor and prevent an exodus of young voters from alternatives out of sheer boredom.
Ringing in the changes
“This change was necessary to allow young voters to vote for the BJP again — to vote for the old party but which looks very different,” said a senior leader of the BJP involved in party affairs.
On Wednesday, before the top leaders held a meeting to finalise the candidates in Delhi, party veterans in Gujarat wrote to Gujarat BJP Chief C. R. Paatil about their unwillingness to contest the upcoming polls.
“Senior party leaders including the former Chief Minister Vijay and Nitinbhai Patel had expressed that they will not contest and will work for the party,” said Bhupender Yadav at the briefing in New Delhi.
Among other leaders who were Ministers in the previous Rupani government and have withdrawn from contesting the polls include Bhupendrasinh Chudasama, Pradipsinh Jadeja, Kaushik Patel, Saurabh Patel and R. C. Faldu.
In the Gujarat polls, 89 assembly segments vote in the first phase on December 1. The second phase, for the remaining 93 of the 182 seats, will be held on December 5, and the result be declared on December 8 along with that of Himachal Pradesh.