The BJP juggernaut is rolling, crushing all opposition in Gujarat to realise PM candidate Narendra Modi’s dream of sweeping away all the 26 seats in the state.
But a handful of Congress men — Bharat Solanki from Anand, Shankersinh Vaghela from Sabarkantha and Prabha Taviyad from the reserved tribal seat of Dahod are prominent among them — are still making last-ditch efforts to stop the Modi onslaught on their turfs.
The BJP state general secretary Vijay Rupani said, “Our focus is to win all the 26 seats in Gujarat. So, we have concentrated our energy on defeating Congress leaders, such as Solanki, Vaghela and Union ministers Tushar Chaudhary and Dinsha Patel, who have been winning consecutively.”
Union minister Solanki, a two-time MP, is son of former chief minister Madhavsinh Solanki. His parliamentary seat Anand in central Gujarat is considered to be a pocket borough of the Solankis — his maternal grandfather, Ishwarsinh Chavda, represented it in Parliament for five times.
The BJP, which has managed to win from Anand only once in 1999, has fielded assembly member Dilip Patel, a powerful local politician who was earlier a minister in the Keshubhai government.
Dominated by the OBCs and Kshatriyas, Anand is considered to be the “safest” seat for the Congress in Gujarat.
Another Congress leader, who has so far managed to resist the Modi onslaught, is former BJP leader Shankersinh Vaghela, now leader of the opposition in the assembly. He is contesting from north Gujarat’s Sabarkantha constituency.
Vaghela is hoping to survive this battle too, considering that it was in Sabarkantha that the Congress recorded its best performance in the last assembly polls. It won six of the seven assembly seats in the parliamentary constituency.
A local BJP leader said on condition of anonymity: “Sabarkantha will be tough with Vaghela in the fray. He is popular among the Kshatriya and OBC communities, while a sizeable chunk of Muslim votes will go his way.” He said the BJP candidate, Deepsinh Rathod, didn’t have the stature to face former CM and Union minister Vaghela in Sabarkantha.
Another seat that may disappoint Modi this time is Dahod, reserved for scheduled tribes. The BJP will find the going tough against sitting MP Prabha Taviyad. For, Dahod has been a Congress bastion for decades.
The BJP had won Dahod only once in 2004, but its then MP, Babulal Katara, was caught in a human trafficking case at Delhi airport, damaging the clout the saffron party had built in the region. In the last Lok Sabha polls, the Congress easily regained Dahod. This time, the BJP is making a determined attempt to wrest the seat from the Congress, fielding Jaswantsinh Bhabhor. But BJP leaders are yet not sure of victory in Dahod.
A BJP leader working in Dahod said, “We are putting in our best efforts, but the Congress has a strong clout in the tribal and Muslim pockets in the area.”