BJP’s first list for Gujarat elections triggers rebellion

Manas Dasgupta

AHMEDABAD: The list of 73 candidates released by the Bharatiya Janata Party for the first phase of the Gujarat Assembly elections has sparked rebellion within the party.

At least half-a-dozen of the 11 sitting members who were denied ticket have already made their intentions clear: to contest either as independents or as candidates of Uma Bharti’s Bharatiya Janshakti Party.

Threaten to quit

In several constituencies, a number of party workers and local office-bearers have either resigned or threatened to quit the party in protest against the denial of ticket to their leaders.

Dhanraj Kella, who represents Wadhwan in Surendranagar district in the outgoing House, said he would seek ticket from Ms. Bharti’s party. The former Minister Mahendra Trivedi (Bhavnagar north), Tapu Limbasiya (Rajkot-1) and several others have refused to take the denial of ticket in their strides and are likely to enter the fray either as independents or as nominees of any other party.

A large number of BJP workers gathered in Surendranagar to protest against the refusal of ticket to the former Minister and former Chairman of the National Commission for the Scheduled Castes, Fakirbhai Vaghela, who was expecting to be nominated in Dasada. Several of them submitted their resignations from the BJP in the expectation that he would contest as independent.

The first list released on Sunday night shows that Chief Minister Narendra Modi has been given a free hand in the choice of candidates. Party sources here point out that the central leadership has not changed even a single name in the list recommended by the State parliamentary party. Though renominating the sitting members was discussed at several stages, Mr. Modi’s wish to bring in “new faces” has prevailed.

Apparently all those who at one time or the other raised their voice against the “personality cult” in the party, though did not openly join the dissident ranks, did not find favour with Mr. Modi and the high command.

A senior BJP leader said if the criterion for bringing in new faces was to avoid the incumbency factor, the first casualty should have been members of the Modi Cabinet, but all 10 Ministers, representing constituencies which go the polls in the first phase on December 11, were renominated.

Claiming that several Ministers were likely to be defeated, the leader said “personal loyalty” to Mr. Modi, rather than “winnability” and other factors including loyalty to the party, mattered most in the nomination decision.

Mr. Modi, however, does not believe there is any “dissatisfaction” over the ticket distribution. “It is wrong to say anyone has been dropped. A candidate is selected for a period of five years, which all are completing now and in the next elections, the party has every right to consider any other candidate if found suitable,” he told mediapersons in Gandhinagar.

Claiming that the party would return with a “massive majority,” Mr. Modi ridiculed the “so-called” poll surveys and said there was need to carry out a “survey of the poll surveys” to find out their credibility.

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