BJP banks on Shah’s dominance to secure record victory in Gandhinagar LS seat


PTI, May 6, 2024, 3:18 PM IST

With the Congress failing to field a strong candidate in the Gandhinagar Lok Sabha constituency, the BJP is eyeing a record winning margin of more than 10 lakh votes for its sitting MP and Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

In the past, this predominantly urban constituency has been represented by BJP stalwarts L K Advani and Atal Bihari Vajpayee. While the seat has been a pocket borough of the BJP since 1989, it did witness interesting contests when the Congress chose high-profile candidates like T N Seshan and Rajesh Khanna.

This time, the Congress has fielded its former Gujarat women’s wing chairperson Sonal Patel against Shah, who had won by more than 5.5 lakh votes in the 2019 polls. Local BJP leaders said the party aims to raise this margin of victory to more than 10 lakh votes.

In 2019, BJP’s C R Paatil defeated his Congress rival by more than 6.9 lakh votes from Navsari in Gujarat. It was the highest margin of victory in the country in the 2019 elections.

”The margin of my victory will be much higher than in 2019,” Shah told reporters recently when asked about the target of 10 lakh.

”I was a common worker of the BJP, painting symbols and pasting posters here. I have represented this area for almost 30 years,” said the BJP leader who was MLA of Naranpura, one of the assembly segments in the Lok Sabha constituency, after filing his nomination papers.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has decided that India will bid for the 2036 Olympics, and the games will be hosted in Gandhinagar-Ahmedabad, Shah said earlier.

The Union home minister held a roadshow in the constituency on April 18, a day before he filed his papers.

The constituency has 21.5 lakh registered voters (11.04 lakh male, 10.46 lakh female and 70 third gender) and comprises assembly segments of Gandhinagar North, Kalol, Sanand, Ghatlodiya, Vejalpur, Naranpura and Sabarmati.

All seven seats, including the five urban seats which fall in Ahmedabad limits (Ghatlodiya, Vejalpur, Naranpura, Sabarmati and Sanand) were won by the ruling BJP in the 2022 assembly elections.

Seemingly unfazed by her formidable rival often credited with the BJP’s meteoric rise, Congress candidate Patel told PTI that a local candidate was better suited to take on Shah.

”There are two problems with getting strong candidates from outside. The person does not know anything about the area and has to be handheld, and when he leaves after the defeat, there is a vacuum,” she said.

Sonal Patel, who is the All India Congress Committee (AICC) secretary, also said that she has seen ”Amit bhai” as a grassroots worker like her who rose through the ranks of his party.

”I had not asked for a ticket from the party as I was busy in Congress affairs of Maharashtra, where I am co-incharge of Mumbai and Western Maharashtra. The party told me to fight this election and I accepted it,” Patel said.

On local BJP leaders claiming that Shah’s margin of victory would be more than 10 lakh, Patel said it was not possible as the total number of voters in the constituency was around 21 lakh and usually about 60 per cent of them go out to vote.

”It is an impossible task if they do not mess with the EVMs,” she added.

Nimesh Patel, a Congress worker, noted that last time, party candidate C J Chavda had got more than 3.5 lakh votes. ”This time, the Congress expects to get more votes,” he said.

Chavda had recently joined the BJP.

In the 1999 general elections, the Congress had fielded Seshan, who was known for his uncompromising stand while serving as the Chief Election Commissioner, against Advani. Seshan ultimately lost but managed to put up a tough fight.

In 1998, the Congress had fielded former Gujarat Director General of Police P K Dutta against Advani.

Advani won from Gandhinagar six times from 1991 to 2014 barring 1996 when Vajpayee contested from this seat as well as Lucknow.

After getting elected from both the seats, he retained Lucknow, which necessitated a bypoll for which Congress fielded Bollywood superstar Rajesh Khanna against the BJP’s Vijay Patel. Khanna lost the election.

Shah replaced Advani as BJP’s candidate in the constituency in 2019.

Voting for 25 out of 26 seats in Gujarat will take place in the third phase of the ongoing general elections on Tuesday.

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