The BJP on Sunday declared its candidates for four Lok Sabha constituencies of Chhota Udepur, Anand, Junagadh and Patan in Gujarat, dropping three sitting MPs. It has just retained Junagadh Member of Parliament Rajesh Chudasama.
Bharatsinh Dabhi, sitting MLA from Kheralu Assembly constituency, will contest from Patan, while Geeta Rathwa, a district panchayat member for the last five terms, will be the candidate from Chhota Udepur (ST). Mitesh Patel, a district-level treasurer, will fight from Anand.
With this, the party has declared its candidates for 23 out of 26 seats in Gujarat.
The party also declared its candidate for Talala Assembly constituency bypoll, which will be held on April 23, along with the Lok Sabha elections.
The party is yet to declare its candidates for Mehsana, Surat and Ahmedabad (East), last held by actor-politician Paresh Rawal who has refused to contest this time. The candidate for the Unjha Assembly constituency bypoll has also not been declared yet. Sources do not rule out chances of party leadership asking Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel to contest from Mehsana, adding the party is also facing serious internal disputes over the candidate selection for Unjha.
Geeta Rathwa (Chhota Udepur)
In Chhota Udepur, the party has selected Geeta (46) over sitting MP Ramsinh Rathwa. Geeta is the district panchayat member since 2015 and has been nominated for her "clean image" and popularity amongst the local residents, a BJP leader said. Her husband Vajesinh Rathwa, who is also a member of the BJP since 1991, presently serves as the vice president of the district unit. Geeta, who has completed her HSC, joined the party in 1995 and went on to become the president of the BJP Mahila Morcha of Kawant in 1998 and continued on the post till 2004. She has also served as the chairman of district panchayat of Vadodara in 2013-14, chairman of the panchayat health committee in 2011-13 and chairman of the child development department of the district in 2014-15.
According to party insiders, they were pided on the candidature of Ramsinh who had been winning the seat for the last two terms. While a faction was backing district president Jasu Rathwa, former MLA Jayanti Rathwa too was gaining support.
A senior BJP leader said Geeta had submitted her profile almost six months ago, although she was also part of the faction that registered protest against Ramsinh. Ramsinh, who had been contesting since 1991, said he accepts the party's decision.
Mitesh Patel (Anand)
Anand is another LS constituency where the BJP replaced its sitting MP and gave ticket to Patel to take on the Congress candidate, former Union minister Bharatsinh Solanki. The Anand LS seat has been a strong Congress bastion since beginning. The BJP won the seat for the first time in 1989, but the Congress regained it again, however, losing twice to the BJP in 1999 and 2014. In 2014, Dilip Patel defeated Solanki.
Mitesh, a native of Vasad, runs a private company, besides being the convener of Gujarat Dal Utpadak Mandal and the state representative of Pulse and Export Manufacturing Association of India. He also serves as the government-nominated syndicate member of Sardar Patel University, Vallabh Vidhyanagar. According to the party members in Anand, Mitesh's clean image and industrial background were the foremost reasons for his selection.
Bharatsinh Dabhi (Patan)
Patan of north Gujarat is third seat where the BJP replaced its sitting MP Liladhar Vaghela and chose Kheralu MLA Dabhi (64) to fight against senior Congress leader Jagdish Thakor.
A four-time MLA from Kheralu, Dabhi belongs to Thakor community. Though originally from the Congress, Dabhi joined the BJP in early 2000s. His father Shankarsinh Dabhi too was a Congress MLA and MP during the Chimanbhai Patel government.
The contest for the Patan seat is expected to be a tough one with both Jagdish and Bharatsinh having a strong base among the Thakor (OBC) community, which is in decisive number in Patan.
Rajesh Chudasama (Junagadh)
For Junagadh, the BJP has renominated its sitting MP Chudasama. He is the sixth sitting BJP MP in Saurashtra-Kutch region to get the party ticket.
A native of Chorwad in Mangrol taluka of Junagadh district, Chudasama had become one of the youngest Parliamentarian form the state as he had won the Lok Sabha election from Junagadh on a BJP ticket in 2014 at 31. His maiden major election was the 2012 Assembly polls, during which he had won the Mangrol constituency as a BJP nominee.
The stage for Chudasama's renomination had been set on Thursday when he met former Junagadh MP Dinu Solanki and former minister Jasabhai Barad at the former's residence in Kodinar town of Gir Somnath district. Solanki, who is believed to be close to BJP national president Amit Shah, is apparently out of reckoning to get a party ticket as he is accused in the murder case of RTI activist Amit Jethva and is presently out on bail. However, he still holds considerable clout especially in Gir Somnath district, which is part of the Junagadh Parliamentary seat.
Chudasama, who hails from Koli community, which dominates the Junagadh Lok Sabha seat, had been maintaining a sort of distance from Solanki, a Karadiya Rajput.
But after the meeting on Thursday, photos of Solanki garlanding Chudasama and Barad had gone viral and sources claim that the meeting had decided the BJP candidates for Junagadh as well as the Talala Assembly constituency.
The party has fielded Barad for the Talala bypoll.
Chudasama pipped Jyoti Vacchani, former mayor of Junagadh, and educationist G P Kathi. Congress has given ticket to six-time MLA from Una and senior party leader, Punjabhai Vansh.
The Talala Assembly seat had fallen vacant early this month after sitting Congress MLA Bhaga Barad was disqualified following his conviction in a 1995 case of illegal mining.
The Congress is yet to announce its candidate for the Assembly seat.
Barad has challenged his disqualification before the Supreme Court and the matter is expected to be heard on Monday.
The BJP faces an uphill task in the Junagadh Lok Sabha constituency as till recently the Congress held all the seven Assembly segments - Junagadh, Visavadar, Talala, Somnath, Kodinar, Mangrol and Una.