Ahmedabad/New Delhi: Even as the central leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) gears up to declare its list of candidates for the Gujarat assembly elections next month, former chief minister Vijay Rupani and three of his ex-cabinet colleagues — former deputy CM Nitin Patel, Pradeepsinh Jadeja, and Bhupendra Chudasama — have said that they are bowing out of the contest.
According to a BJP source, all four sent letters to the central leadership asking them not to consider their names in the parliamentary board meeting where the candidates are to be finalised.
Their move comes at a time when the party is actively promoting ‘new talent’ rather than veterans, including sitting MLAs, in Gujarat. This was also a major reason for overhauling the entire state cabinet back in 2021.
Among the four, Nitin Patel, a powerful leader of the Patidar community and MLA from Mehsana, wrote a separate letter to Gujarat BJP president C.R. Paatil, striking an emotional note.
“I thank Modi and all the workers of BJP and the people of Gujarat for the constant guidance and being a source of inspiration for me in 32 years of my political career,” Patel said in the handwritten note, which ThePrint has seen.
He reminisced fondly about his political journey, but added he did not want to contest again from Mehsana assembly seat. He seems to have had a change of heart since last year.
For a while now, Patel has been playing runner-up to the post of CM. He was given a miss in 2016 when first-time MLA Vijay Rupani was chosen to replace Anandiben Patel.
In September 2021, when Rupani and other ministers were replaced as a tactical move ahead of the assembly elections, he was bypassed again, this time by current Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel.
During this rejig, Nitin Patel was dropped from the Gujarat cabinet too, but the five-time MLA had said that he would contest the 2022 assembly elections. “I am in the hearts of my people, voters, and party workers, no one can throw me out,” Patel was quoted as saying then.
A senior Gujarat BJP leader said that as CM Bhupendra Patel also belongs to the Patidar community, Nitin Patel’s absence from the hustings will not impact the party’s caste arithmetic.
The other former members of the Rupani cabinet who have exited the contest are Dholka MLA Bhupendrasinh Chudasama, who was a minister between 2008 and 2021, and Vatva MLA Pradeepsinh Jadeja, who has held the home as well as law & judiciary portfolios.
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‘Many sitting MLAs will be dropped’
The BJP wants to promote new talent while utilising the “experience” of veterans elsewhere, another senior party leader from Gujarat told ThePrint.
“The party wants to give a chance to young leaders and everyone needs to work together. [Senior leaders’] experience will be utilised in strategising and campaigning,” he said.
“Just like earlier the entire cabinet was dropped, similarly the party has undertaken surveys and with winnability as a major factor many sitting MLAs will be dropped,” he added.
Sources said former CM and Rajkot (West) MLA Rupani had never announced any intention to contest the state elections and was on board with the party’s strategy.
The BJP had also accommodated him within the organisation by making him its in-charge of Punjab.
Rupani told ANI Wednesday that he backed whichever candidates the party chose. “In these polls, responsibility should be given to new workers. I won’t contest the poll, I sent a letter to seniors and conveyed it to Delhi. We’ll work to make the chosen candidates win,” he was quoted as saying.
Chudasama also adopted a similar stance, stating that he had fought elections nine times already and felt younger leaders should contest.
“I will not fight assembly elections and have expressed it to senior leader of party. I’ve decided other workers should get opportunity. I’ve fought the elections nine times till now. I express my gratitude to the party,” he said.
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