New Delhi/Ahmedabad, Nov. 18: The BJP today announced its list of candidates for the first phase of the Gujarat elections, dropping 20 MLAs and giving tickets to 13 women.
The chop-and-change strategy adopted by chief minister Narendra Modi, who will again contest from Maninagar in Ahmedabad, is intended at “giving a new coat of paint” to the party and helping it fight anti-incumbency, BJP sources said.
The sources were, however, tight-lipped on whether the fresh-face strategy would have the desired impact, merely saying they were keeping their fingers crossed.
The list put out today is for 75 of 87 seats in Saurashtra, Kutch and south Gujarat where polls will be held on December 11.
Although there are fears today’s move could fan the rebellion in Saurashtra, the hub of the anti-Modi drive headed by Keshubhai Patel, it has not come as a surprise as the chief minister had hinted at it, an MLA said.
Anticipating that such a thing would happen, six rebel MLAs had resigned as BJP primary members yesterday. Two others — from Saurashtra and north Gujarat — quit earlier.
A Modi loyalist, however, insisted “performance and winnability, not loyalty”, had been the deciding factor.
“It has been the party’s policy to drop some sitting MLAs if their performance report is poor,” state party spokesperson Bharati Gariwala said. “It has worked earlier (in civic elections) and it will work now.”
The move to give tickets to ladies is likely to boost the pro-women image that Modi has been cultivating and help neutralise anti-incumbency somewhat. The chief minister believes women are one of his “strong constituencies”.
Of the MLAs denied tickets, at least six are hoping the Congress will approach them. But the Congress is still sorting out its seat-sharing problems with the Nationalist Congress Party, which has a base in Saurashtra and north Gujarat.
Congress sources said the party would approach the BJP rebels “with caution” and give them tickets only after their records in the post-Godhra riots are scanned minutely. Congress chief Sonia Gandhi had made it clear she did not want any “communally tainted” person in the party, they said.
The Congress is likely to put out its first list tomorrow. A BJP source said his party’s image would take a beating if the Congress opted to give tickets to the dropped rebels.
Uma Bharti’s Lok Janshakti Party is believed to be keen to field the dropped MLAs.
A former BJP legislator said: “There are chances that those denied tickets might become inactive or may work for rival candidates. One hopes that Modi, wily politician and master strategist that he is, has taken all these factors into consideration.”