New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party has “rewarded” former legislator Kantilal Amrutiya with a seat from Morbi, Gujarat, for saving many more lives that could have been lost in the horrific bridge collapse on 30 October that killed 137 people.
Amrutiya replaces sitting MLA from Morbi, Brijesh Merja — also the Minister of State, Panchayat and Labour – in the first list of 160 candidates that the BJP announced Thursday for the Assembly elections in December.
The party has dropped 38 sitting MLAs and repeated 69 so far.
Among those excluded were former chief minister Vijay Rupani, former deputy CM Nitin Patel, and former ministers Pradeepsinh Jadeja and Bhupendra Chudasama, who the party said wanted to work at the grassroots.
Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel will contest from Ghatlodiya, while cricketer Ravindra Jadeja’s wife Rivaba has been fielded from Jamnagar (North).
Patidar leader Hardik Patel, who left the Congress for the BJP, will fight from Viramgam and Home Minister Harsh Sanghavi from the Majura constituency.
Other Congress turncoats fielded include Rajendrasinh Rathwa, whose MLA father Mohansinh Rathwa joined the BJP recently. Ahir community leader Bhagwan Barad, a sitting MLA who resigned and joined the BJP Wednesday, has also got a ticket, along with former MLA Manojbhai Vaghela, who will contest against Dalit activist Jignesh Mevani.
A senior party leader said of Amrutiya: “He played a crucial role in saving many lives as he reached the spot first and was there till the very end. The party wants to reward such people as he has done exemplary work. The sitting MLA was involved in several controversies related to the bridge and the party did not want to take any chances.”
BJP in-charge of Gujarat Bhupender Yadav said: “This (electoral) list has representation of people from all walks of life. We have given tickets to 14 women, 13 Scheduled Caste and 24 Scheduled Tribe candidates.”
He added those dropped had told the leadership they wanted to work for the party rather than be in the electoral race. Among them were R.C. Faldu, Saurabh Patel, Nitin Patel, Kaushik Patel, Vijay Rupani, Bhupendra Chudasama, Pradipsinh Jadeja and Kaushik Patel.
A day before the list was announced former chief minister Vijay Rupani and three of his ex-cabinet colleagues — former deputy CM Nitin Patel, Pradeepsinh Jadeja, and Bhupendra Chudasama — had requested the central leadership not to consider their names during ticket selection.
Keeping the caste arithmetic in mind, the party picked worker Mukesh Dwarkaprasad Patel from the Patidar community in place of Nitin Patel. Former CM Vijay Rupani’s seat has been given to Dr Darshita Paras Shah, who will contest from Rajpur West.
In place of Chudasama, former MLA Kirit Singh Sardar Singh Dabhi has been fielded from Dholka.
The party replaced Saurabh Patel with businessman Ghanshyam Bhai Desai in Botad.
Former IPS officer P.C. Baranda, who unsuccessfully contested in 2017 has got a ticket from Bhiloda.
Prominent leader Balwant Singh has got the ticket from Sidhpur in place of senior leader Jai Narayan Vyas, who recently quit the party.
Another interesting name in the list is that of Ramesh Bhai Tilara, who got the ticket from Rajkot South. Tilara is trustee of the influential Kodadhan temple of the Patidar community.
Some of the lucky ones, who were ministers in the Rupani cabinet, and managed to get a ticket this time include Ishwar Parmar, Ganpath Bhai Vasava, Jayesh Radadiya, Dilip Thakore and Jawahar Bhai Chavda.
BJP Gujarat President C.R. Patil said: “This time, the Gujarat election is all about bettering the party’s record in the state, both in terms of seats and winning margins.”
A senior BJP leader said the party has tried to maintain a balance between new and experienced faces. “Many professionals and young faces have also been given space. People from all walks of life have got a chance. The anti-incumbency factor is always at play and some sitting MLAs have been dropped based on surveys conducted at the organisational level, and even at that of the government,” the leader said.
The BJP, which has been in power in Gujarat since 1995, is trying to improve its 2017 tally, when the Congress won 77 seats and confined the ruling party to 99. The BJP’s target, this time, is to win 150 seats in the 182-member Assembly.
The BJP is also concerned about the Aam Aadmi Party’s concerted attempt to emerge as the principal challenger in Gujarat. The fledgling party has already gained some ground in the state. In the municipal elections last year, the AAP secured 28 per cent of the vote in Surat, 21 per cent in Gandhinagar, and 17 per cent in Rajkot.
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