Hitesh Chavda, Ahmedabad: After profiling 10 powerful Congress candidates and who the Bharatiya Janata Party has nominated to challenge them, we look at 10 candidates from the ruling party—nine sitting members of the Gujarat legislative assembly (MLAs) and one influential leader who is a former health minister—and their counterparts from the opposition party.
Rajkot West: Vijay Rupani vs Indranil Rajyaguru
The Congress is taking the fight to chief minister Vijay Rupani on his home turf, fielding Indranil Rajyaguru, the sitting member of the Gujarat legislative assembly (MLA) from the Rajkot East constituency. Vajubhai Vala won Rajkot West in the 2012 polls, but he vacated it when he was made governor of Karnataka in 2014, and Rupani won the seat in a by-poll later that year, a year and a half before he was handed the reins of the state government. But the chief minister has been at the receiving end of Patidar leader Hardik Patel’s rallies and rhetoric in his own constituency, and the attack on his opponent’s brother has own served to further queer the pitch.
Mehsana: Nitin Patel vs Jivabhai Patel
Deputy chief minister Nitin Patel is running for re-election from the Mehsana constituency, the epicentre of the Patidar reservation movement, against Jivabhai Patel, a former Lok Sabha member from the Mehsana parliamentary constituency. The BJP has held the seat since 1990, and Nitin Patel won by a margin of 22,000 votes in the last assembly elections, but the Patidar factor could work against his favour this time.
Vav: Shankar Chaudhary vs Geniben Thakor>
This battle is a repeat of 2012. Shankar Chaudhary is running for re-election on his home ground against Geniben Thakor of the Congress, who he defeated by 12,000 votes the last time around. However, Chaudhary, Gujarat’s health minister, has been accused of submitting fake educational credentials and was also caught watching porn in the assembly in 2012, which is something that could come back to bite him. While his work during the Banaskantha floods earlier this year has been noted, the Alpesh Thakor factor—the Other Backward Class (OBC) leader joined the Congress a month ago—may dent his chances of retaining the seat.
Dholka: Bhupendrasinh Chudasama vs Ashvin Rathod
Bhupendrasinh Chudasama, Gujarat’s minister for revenue, education and parliamentary affairs, has been contesting the seat since 1980, winning in 1990, 1995, 2002 and 2012. But voters are now complaining that he has not fulfilled his poll promises and has ignored many of the villages in Dholka, and he was also embroiled in the Dansang Mori chapter (the former sarpanch of Budhel village in Bhavnagar district was at the centre of the dispute between the Rajput community and BJP state president Jitu Vaghani, who he says forced him out of his post on false allegations over the acquisition of gauchar, or grazing, land in his village). The Congress candidate is a new face from the Koli community who will also draw the Dalit vote.
Sidhhpur: Jaynarayan Vyas vs Chandan Thakor
Former health minister and senior BJP leader Jaynarayan Vyas will contest his home seat that he won in 1990, 1995, 1998 and 2007 but lost to Balwantsinh Rajput in 2002 and 2012. Rajput quit the Congress in August and joined the ruling party, following which he was made chairman of Gujarat Industrial Development Corp. (GIDC), and his support is expected to give a boost to Vyas’s prospects. Local leader Chandan Thakor will contest for the Congress.
Ghatlodia: Bhupendra Patel vs Shashikant Patel
Anandiben Patel won in 2012 by more than one lakh votes, but the former chief minister has decided against running this time. Bhupendra Patel, chairman of the Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority (Auda), has an easy contest on his hands against Shashikant Patel, one of the Congress’s 14 general secretaries in Gujarat.
Bhuj: Nimaben Acharya vs Aadam Chaki
Nimaben Acharya, who switched her allegiance from the Congress to the BJP more than 10 years ago, faces off against Muslim candidate Aadam Chaki, general secretary of the Bhuj Youth Congress as well as the party’s state unit and chairman of the Bhuj chamber of commerce. But it’s a tough ask for the Congress nominee, who is a first-timer: Acharya won successive elections from the neighbouring Anjar constituency for the Congress in 2002 and the BJP in 2007, before taking Bhuj in the last assembly elections.
Dasada: Ramanlal Vora vs Naushad Solanki
Ramanlal Vora, the speaker in the Gujarat assembly and five-term winner from the Idar (SC) constituency has been shifted to Dasada, another seat that is reserved for Scheduled Castes (SCs), after the BJP decided against sitting MLA Poonam Makwana. The Congress has thrown its weight behind local leader and general secretary Naushad Solanki. Vora stands a chance of losing as the constituency is new to him and is his opponent’s hometown.
Bhavnagar West: Jitu Vaghani vs Dilipsinh Gohil
Jitu Vaghani, the BJP’s Gujarat president has been at the receiving end of the Rajput community’s ire. The dispute over Dansang Mori, the former sarpanch of Budhel village in Bhavnagar district, has been well-chronicled by the state media. Mori accused Vaghani of forcing him out of his post on false allegations over the acquisition of gauchar (grazing) land in his village). While there have been reports of the BJP state president making up with the Rajput community, their stand still seems to be against him. Vaghani won the seat in 2012 against Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil, but lost to him in 2007 in the erstwhile Bhavnagar South constituency, which Gohil also represented from 1990 to 1998. The 2017 Congress candidate, Dilipsinh Gohil, ran for Parliament in the 1999 Lok Sabha elections.
Vatva: Pradeepsinh Jadeja vs Bipin Patel
Pradipsinh Jadeja, Gujarat’s home minister, is looking for a second term from Vatva in Ahmedabad district. Against him is industrialist Bipinchandra Patel, who was formerly chairman of the Vatva Industries Association and is a prominent member of the Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry—as well as a Patidar face for the Congress.