Gujarat elections: BJP drops 15 MLAs, including 3 ministers, in third list

The BJP dropped three Patidar ministers including Nanu Vanani, Jayanti Kavadiya and Vallabh Vagahsia.

assembly elections Updated: Nov 20, 2017 16:10 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Ahmedabad, Hindustan Times
Gujarat elections,BJP,Candidate list
Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) with BJP president Amit Shah and Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani during Gujarat Gaurav Mahasammelan in Ahmedabad.(PTI file)

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Monday released the third list of its 28 candidates for the assembly elections in Gujarat, dropping as many as 15 sitting legislators, including three Patidar ministers, for the crucial polls in December.

Ministers Nanu Vanani, Jayanti Kavadiya and Vallabh Vagahsia did not find a place in the list. They represent Katargam, Dhangadhra and Savarkundla, where the politically influential Patidar community’s agitation under the leadership of Hardik Patel for reservation in education and government jobs was widespread.

Vinubhai Moradiya will fight from the Katargam seat in Surat in place of Vanani.

The BJP did not include former minister Vasuben Trivedi from Jamnagar South. She is a close aide of former chief minister Anandiben Patel, who was replaced by the party with Vijay Rupani in August 2016.

Former minister IK Jadeja, another Anandiben loyalist, was also not given a ticket despite intense protests by his supporters in the past two days.

The ruling party has allowed heavyweights, including speaker Ramanlal Vora, former energy minister Saurabh Patel and former state president RC Faldu, to change seats.

Patel, whose future appeared uncertain after he was dropped as a minister when the new cabinet was sworn in under chief minister Vijay Rupani last year, has been fielded from Botad. He represents Akota in the outgoing assembly.

Vora, a Dalit leader who represents Idar, will now fight from Dasada. Faldu, who lost the election in 2012 from Jamnagar Rural, will now contest from Jamnagar South.

The BJP has so far announced the nominees for 134 of the 182 assembly seats and dropped 30 MLAs in Gujarat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state where the BJP has been in power for 22 years.

Voting to elect 182 members to the assembly will be held in two phases on December 9 and 14. The results are expected on December 18.

The BJP’s third list comes at a time when the alliance between the Congress and Hardik Patel-led Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) has come under a cloud. Serious differences emerged over the grand old party’s first list of 77 candidates, announced on Sunday, accommodating just three PAAS names. It includes 20 Patidars.

Patidar supporters vandalised the Congress’ office in Surat hours after the party released its list and Hardik cancelled Monday’s rally in Rajkot, where he was expected to make the decision about extending support to the opposition party.

The developments highlighted the unease between the Congress and PAAS camps over their long-awaited alliance that is hoping to oust the ruling BJP in the upcoming elections.

Out of power for more than two decades, the Congress has been wooing caste leaders such as Patel, whose outfit is up in arms against the BJP over the reservation in jobs and education. The PAAS, which appears to be playing hardball with the Congress, had demanded around 20 seats.

The contest in the western state will also be keenly watched for signs of voters’ reactions to some of the Prime Minister’s radical economic policies that the opposition Congress is trying to leverage to regain political ground.

Angry protests by Patidars – who have been loyal to it for three decades – is a headache for the BJP, although most experts see the party retaining power in its citadel.

For the BJP, which has said it will win no less than 150 seats, it’s a prestige battle. The party has been extending its reach across the country, emboldened by a string of state election victories and consistently high public approval for Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

But with the economy still reeling from last year’s cash clampdown and the bumpy implementation of the Goods and Services Tax, the party appears to have lost, for the first time since its resounding national victory in 2014, some of its unbridled confidence.

The BJP has announced several incentives for voters in the state, including loans without interest for farmers, jobs for sanitation workers and big-ticket infrastructure projects.

(With PTI inputs)

First Published: Nov 20, 2017 13:44 IST