Nov. 24: After considerable deliberation, Sonia Gandhi today cleared the candidature of former BJP legislator Yatin Oza against chief minister Narendra Modi in the Maninagar Assembly seat.
Oza, a leading advocate and former MLA from Sabarmati, was initially reluctant to contest against Modi, but Congress general secretary in charge of Gujarat Kamal Nath prevailed upon him to take up the challenge.
Sonia’s first preference was someone with an NGO background, preferably a woman, but the Gujarat unit failed to find a match.
Oza, however, denied he had any reservations against the contest. He said that a few days ago, a senior Congress leader had rung him up, asking him to contest. “I readily agreed to take on Modi,” he said.
Oza represented Sabarmati, which falls under deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani’s Gandhinagar Lok Sabha constituency, in 1995 and 1998.
After Oza resigned form the BJP following his differences with then chief minister Keshubhai Patel, Congress candidate Narhari Amin wrested Sabarmati from the BJP.
Oza had not joined the Congress yet but he actively campaigned for the party’s candidate in Rajkot-II, from where Modi was elected to the Assembly in February this year.
Oza had been the ruling BJP’s official pleader. By fielding Oza from Maninagar, the Congress hopes to keep the chief minister busy in his constituency as this political maverick knows the BJP machinery well.
As an orator, Oza can match Modi. As a former BJP lawyer, he had handled several of the ruling party’s important cases. Congress leaders in the state said Oza could leave many a BJP leader red-faced.
Though Maninagar is a BJP stronghold, the party will now have to face uncomfortable questions from a challenger who had once been considered an insider.
The Congress also announced its third list of 11 other candidates for the December 12 polls in Gujarat. It is yet to name its nominees for Ellis Bridge, Dariapur and Kalupur.
The Congress has cleared the names of 176 candidates, leaving only six seats to be announced in consultation with the state party leadership. Party sources said at Dariapur and Kalupur, there was a tussle between supporters of state Congress chief Shankersinh Vaghela and Madhavsinh Solanki.
The Congress candidates cleared today include Oza (Maninagar), Lalit Kumar Kagathara (Tankara), Mohanlal Lalji Patel (Upleta), Chandu Faldu (Manavadar), Keshavji Shivaji Chauhan (Deodar), Jaymal Khant (Meghraj), Manhar Kantibhai Patel (Modasa) and Tusharsinh (Devgadh Baria).