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Rediff.com  » Election » Modi gets his way as BJP releases first list in Gujarat

Modi gets his way as BJP releases first list in Gujarat

March 19, 2009 09:45 IST

When reporters called former Union minister Kanshiram Rana at his home on Wednesday morning, they found him virtually in tears.

After nearly 50 years in the service of the Bharatiya Janata Party (earlier Bharatiya Jana Sangh), of which five years were spent as Union minister of textiles, and a temporary suspension for 'anti-party activities', 75-year-old Rana's political affiliations caught up with him.

The Member of Parliament from Surat in the 14th Lok Sabha was not renominated by the party, leading to reluctant admission by critics of Chief Minister Narendra Modi within the party: that he'd done it again.

Party sources say that Modi used a stratagem that politicians rarely use: of leveraging a general election to purge the state of leaders inimical to him. Rana had openly acknowledged himself as a follower of Modi's biggest adversary in the Gujarat BJP -- Keshubhai Patel -- and was the fulcrum of the anti-Modi campaign in 2007, following which he was suspended.

Rana has now been silenced, politically, possibly forever, and he has been replaced by Darshnaben Jardosh as the BJP candidate. This is despite the fact that he has won the Surat Parliamentary constituency more than five times. In 2004, he won by a margin of nearly 150,000 votes.

Vallabh Bhai Kathiria, another former Union minister of state representing Rajkot, also finds himself out of the poll fray. Kathiria, who is also a supporter of Keshubhai Patel, has been replaced by Kiranbhai Patel.

This is despite the fact that the Congress did not field a candidate and left the seat for the Nationalist Congress Partylast time.

This time, the Congress has ruled out seat-sharing with allies on a national basis and is likely to field a candidate for the seat, though it has not announced any name yet. In 2004, Kathiria had won the Rajkot seat by a margin of 143,000 votes.

Harin Pathak, another critic of Modi, got his seat but barely. In electoral terms, the former Union minister of state for defence is no pushover.

He won the Ahmedabad (East) seat in 2004 by a margin of 77,000 votes. The first list of the nominees from Gujarat had the name of Kaushik Patel for the same seat. It was with some difficulty that Pathak, considered very close to L K Advani, managed to swing his seat.

It should have been easy for the BJP to replace Babubhai Katara, its expelled MP from Dahod (a reserved Scheduled Tribe constituency), who won his seat against the Congress by a margin of just 361 votes last time.

In 2007, Katara was convicted of trying to smuggle a woman and a boy to Canada illegally, and was subsequently expelled from the Lok Sabha. His replacement has not yet been named. Modi is keeping his counsel on this seat because it is considered that it will be a cakewalk for the Congress.

The choice of MPs has also been influenced by the fact that delimitation has affected political equations in Gujarat. Kutch, for instance, used to be a general constituency, but this time it will be reserved for Scheduled Castes.

Accordingly, Pushpadan Gadhvi, who represented the BJP in the last Lok Sabha winning by a margin of around 10,000 votes, has been replaced by Punamben Jat, reflecting the new ethnic configuration of the constituency.

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