One-third of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislators in the Gujarat Assembly may not be picked up for contesting in forthcoming elections as the party plans to field fresh faces.
Mostly the axe would fall on MLAs who have been winning for the past three or more terms. Since BJP has been ruling the State for the past 27 years, anti-incumbency is one factor that would have to be addressed, a senior BJP leader told The Hindu on condition of anonymity.
With this in mind, a new strategy has been worked out to give opportunities to promising first-timers in the constituencies where MLAs have been repeatedly elected for three or more terms.
“At least 30% of our 99 MLAs will be replaced with new faces who worked hard for the upliftment of the party in their respective constituencies. The measure is also taken to ward off the anti-incumbency factor,” he said.
He said that winnability and ability are the two key factors in the selection of the candidates, apart from experience, honesty, integrity and loyalty towards the party, which will continue to remain major factors. They also need to accommodate close to a dozen Congress party MLAs who joined the saffron post-2017 elections.
The party leadership was confident that these senior legislators, who will be asked to step down, may not raise a banner of revolt given the fact that the party has a well-defined internal structure to utilise the available leaders. “They can’t go against their own party and they won’t,” another leader said.
However, he said that even if four or five persons turn rebels that could not make any dent in the party's prospects. “The past experience shows that people who were discarded by the party did not make any gainful advantage in the electoral field even after contenting from rival parties,” he said.
The party stands to gain with the proposed strategy. The leaders clarified that the shedding of 30 % of legislators will not be including the cabinet ministers.
Gujarat being the home turf of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the candidate selection would be personally monitored by himself, he said, adding that the former is keen about the new faces and this time he wishes to see a spike in the seats.
Sharing his experience with the electors, the leader said if people openly question and confront the leaders about the development and other issues vociferously, “we are confident that we will win in such a situation. But, if people are silent and do not make any advances overtly, then we have to be very careful as it would be difficult to gauge the mood of people.”
He further said that so long as the Congress party retains its vote share, they are in a comfortable position as such a scenario would not throw any opportunity for new parties to come and play.
The saffron leaders brushed aside Aam Aadmi Party as a party of no consequence in Gujarat and predicted a total rout for its candidates who could not even get the minimum deposit. They are fully confident that it would come back to power with a comfortable margin in the ensuing elections.
The party has been under attack by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP which is eyeing to make a dent in the support base of the BJP in Gujarat and grab power. “We don't consider AAP as our main challenger. So long as Congress party leaders make strong noises, we are confident that we will repeat our winning performance even better in the coming elections,” the BJP leaders said.