Gujarat Rajya Sabha bypolls: Old-timer, OBC leader on BJP’s list
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Tuesday announced the names of candidates for by-elections to two Rajya Sabha seats in Gujarat on March 1 — one an old-time party worker of four decades, Ram Mokariya, and the other a backward classes leader, Dinesh Anavadiya.
The ruling party will have a walkover on both the seats since the Congress has decided not to nominate any candidate because it doesn’t have the adequate numbers to win any seat — particularly since voting will be held separately for the two seats. The opposition party will, therefore, have to concede the seat that fell vacant after the death of veteran Congress leader Ahmed Patel.
Another seat held by the BJP fell vacant after the death of Abhay Bhardwaj. Both Patel and Bhardwaj succumbed to Covid-19 complications.
Ram Mokariya, who is a surprise choice from the party, founded Gujarat’s first Shree Maruti Courier service in 1985 to cater to four cities in the Saurashtra region. The primary reason for Maruti’s success was that it delivered to remotest towns in Gujarat.
“I have been a dedicated party worker for four decades without any expectations. I am indeed happy that the party has picked me to contest the Rajya Sabha elections,” Mokariya told reporters after his selection.
The other candidate is Gujarat’s OBC Morcha chief Anavadiya, a senior leader from North Gujarat’s Banaskantha district who was director of the Gujarat State Road Transport Corporation between 2014 and 2017.
The BJP, which won 99 seats in the 2017 elections, now has 111 legislators in a House of 182, while the number of the Congress has fallen from 77 to 65 after several desertions. The Bharatiya Tribal Party has two MLAs, Nationalist Congress Party one, and Jignesh Mevani is the only independent MLA.
As of now, two assembly seats are vacant.
“We don’t have the numbers to nominate a candidate. If polling was to be held together for both seats, we could still have stood a chance of retaining our one seat since the voting MLAs would be equally divided. In two separate ballots, all 180 MLAs will vote for each seat,” Gujarat Congress chief spokesperson Manish Doshi said.
Meanwhile, there is some surprise in the BJP camp as well since the party was expected to field Balwantsinh Rajput, who created an upset in 2017 when he quit the Congress to join the BJP. He was immediately nominated against Ahmed Patel for the Rajya Sabha, and came close to pulling off a win against his former mentor. Patel won the seat by one vote.