Jeetega Gujarat almost collided with Chak De Congress in Maningar on Wednesday as Narendra Modi and Dinsha Patel filed their nominations within 15 minutes of each other.
The chief minister had won the seat in December 2002 with a comfortable margin — over 75,000 votes — in a communally charged state after the post-Godhra riots. The Gujarat Gaurav Yatra had helped deepen the communal divide.
Polling in the constituency in 2002, which had been slow in the morning, picked up rapidly when middle-class Hindus rushed to the booths after some television channels showed Burqa-clad women queuing up in Maninagar.
“In 2002 when I fought the elections, not many people were acquainted with me or my work. But now the people have seen my work and have no doubts about me,” said Modi.
Taking a dig at the Congress, he said: “It has neither a leader nor policy, how can it contribute to the nation’s progress? No Congress worker is able to name its leader.”
But Dinsha Patel gave a fitting reply: “I am just a Congress worker not like the other person (Narendra Modi) who considers himself above all others.”
The Congress high command who have chosen Dinsha to fight BJP’s Goliath declared his name only late last night. He is the Union Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas.
The last minute announcement is seen as the Congress’s trump card against the chief minister as this urban constituency has a sizable population of Patels, a community upset with the BJP since Modi displaced their patriarch Keshubhai Patel in October 2001.
The Congress hopes that Dinsha’s nomination in the BJP stronghold will also solve — at least for the time being — the leadership issue should the party manage to win a respectable majority in the 182-member Assembly.
“It is a fight between truth and falsehood, a fight between Hitlershahi (dictatorship) and democracy,” said Dinsha after filing his papers.
Maninagar will vote on December 16. The Chief Minister, along with his nomination papers, also declared his assets, estimated to be around Rs 40 lakh, including a house worth Rs 30 lakh. The rest are in the form of bank deposits and cash.
He was accompanied by Ahmedabad MP Harin Pathak, state BJP state president Purshottam Rupala, constituency in-charge Kamlesh Patel and other party leaders.