Gujarat Elections 2017: BJP MLAs keep fingers crossed over poll tickets
With Hardik, Thakor & Mewani posing new challenges, party may feel the need to field fresh faces in many constituencies
Modi as Gujarat CM had denied tickets to 47 sitting MLAs in 2007 but the figure came down to around 30 in 2012, ostensibly in the wake of the challenge posed by Keshubhai Patel’s Gujarat Parivartan Party. In 2002, when Modi led BJP for the first time as CM in an election, 18 of 121 sitting MLAs were dropped.
While Keshubhai is no longer a threat to BJP, the manner in which the Patidar quota agitation led by Hardik Patel (no match in stature to Keshubhai) was dealt with by the BJP government has antagonised the community like never before. Hardik is likely to have a tieup with Congress and even if this does not work out, he is not going to back BJP.
Congress already has the backing of OBC leader Alpesh Thakor, who has merged his outfit with it, and Dalit leader Jignesh Mewani. Since there is a conflict of interest between Thakor and Hardik, in case the latter ties up with Congress, the party will try for a consensus between the two during ticket distribution.
Congress had already announced before Ahmed Patel’s election to the Rajya Sabha that all sitting MLAs will be allotted tickets this time. If it keeps its word, Congress candidates for 43 seats are already decided. But, before finalising candidates, BJP is likely to keep the new caste equations in mind. With Hardik, Thakor and Mewani being young leaders, BJP may also feel the need to field fresh faces to counter the challenges posed by them.
The KHAM (Kshatriya, Harijan, Adivasi, Muslim) formula used by Congress in the past may be strong this time, though BJP has made some overtures to tribals in past few months. That leaves BJP with the upper caste (Brahmin, Bania — 10%) and OBC (mainly Kolis — 20% by some estimates). With fissures surfacing in the Patels (15%), BJP expects some of its loyal vote bank from the community to come to the party. But if antagonism is deep, Congress may gain the support of a sizable chunk of Patidars.
BJP insiders said its election committee meeting will be held sometime this week after the PM returns from the Asean summit on November 14. The party may also wait for Congress list and the outcome of the talks between Hardik and the grand old party.