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Ticket to Rajkot West's Legacy: With Rupani Not Contesting, BJP Leaders Line Up

Vijay Rupani won the Rajkot West seat in 2014 and 2017. However, he isn't willing to contest this time, sources say.

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Ticket to Rajkot West's Legacy: With Rupani Not Contesting, BJP Leaders Line Up
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Over a year before the 2017 Gujarat Assembly elections, Vijay Rupani, the then MLA from the Rajkot West constituency, was asked to take over as the chief minister of the state from Anandiben Patel by the party high-command in the middle of her term.

Five years later, over a year ahead of the 2021 elections, Rupani was asked to step down, just like his predecessor Patel was, paving way for Bhupendra Patel to become the CM.

The removal of Rupani from the CM post, as much was anticipated, was also sudden in September 2021. In the one year since he stepped aside, Rupani has maintained that he is a staunch party loyalist and will always do as the party says.

As the 2022 Assembly elections approach, Rupani has maintained the same stance, even when it comes to staking claim on his current seat of Rajkot West, which he first won in 2014 after then MLA Vajubhai Vala was made the Governor of Karnataka, and then in the 2017 Assembly election.

After recently stating that he will stake claim to the seat only if the party asks him to do so, Rupani himself is not keen on contesting the upcoming elections at all given the way he was asked to step down as the CM, sources said.

Even as the bugle for the 2022 elections was blown on 2 November with the declaration of election dates, the race for the Rajkot West seat had begun much earlier.

Given the developments taking place, the matter can be looked at from various aspects:

Ticket to Rajkot West's Legacy: With Rupani Not Contesting, BJP Leaders Line Up

  1. 1. If Not Rupani in Rajkot West, Then Who?

    Even though Rupani has not apprised the party high command of his willingness to contest from the seat for the third consecutive time, several BJP leaders including Rupani's loyalist Nitin Bharadwaj, Rajkot unit president Kamlesh Mirani, Vala's PA Tejas Batti, ex-councillor Kashyap Shukla, and deputy mayor Darshita Shah are among those who have officially apprised the party of their wish to contest from the constituency.

    Speaking to The Quint, Mirani said that multiple candidates expressing willingness to get ticket from a seat is a normal phenomenon.

    "The Rajkot West seat has, in fact, seen lesser number of aspirants compared to so many other seats. BJP is a democratic party, this is nothing new," said Mirani, adding that "come what may, the BJP will win."

    However, asked if Rupani has shown any unwillingness to contest, Mirani said, "He is the best person to answer that."

    Expand
  2. 2. The Legacy of the Rajkot Seat

    For 55 years since 1967 (since its Jan Sangh days), not once has the BJP lost the Rajkot West seat (known as Rajkot II till 2012). The constituency comprises mostly upper-caste Hindu voters, whose loyalty the party has managed to command for over five decades.

    Former cabinet minister of Gujarat, Speaker of the Gujarat Assembly, and the Governor of Karnataka from 2014-2021, Vajubhai Vala has been winning the Rajkot West seat from 1985-2014, except for a brief period in 2001-2002 when Narendra Modi, now the Prime Minister, held the seat.

    Clearly the Rajkot West seat is a matter of legacy for the BJP, with an assured victory for any candidate that contests.

    Expand
  3. 3. The Key Face-Off for the Rajkot West Ticket

    The differences between Rupani and Vala, though never openly admitted, have been public knowledge. Naturally, Rupani loyalist Bharadwaj and Vala's PA Patti both showing interest in contesting from the seat draws eyeballs.

    Senior political analyst and editor of a Rajkot daily called 'Headline,' Jagdish Mehta called Bharadwaj "Rupani's shadow."

    "Given the winnability of the constituency, of course Rupani would want his man (Bharadwaj) to get a ticket. Bharadwaj getting a ticket is as good as Rupani getting it," Mehta said.

    "Even when Rupani was in Gandhinagar as the CM, Bharadwaj was his man here in Rajkot," Mehta claimed, adding that "Bharadwaj's clout too has taken a dent since the sidelining of Rupani."

    On the other hand, Vala backing his own PA for the ticket from the constituency is clearly a battle of maintaining clouts within the party, he added.

    Expand
  4. 4. Why Rupani Might Not Want to Contest and What Next

    Despite claims of being sidelined, Rupani has very much been a part of key decisions of the party and is a member of the core committee formed by state BJP President CR Patil. The core committee is currently tasked with deciding upon the candidates, the final decision on which will reportedly be taken in Delhi on 8 and 9 November.

    "When Rupani was removed, a message went out that the BJP did not see the Rupani government fit to rule or win the upcoming election. So, when it comes to Rupani being a candidate for the Rajkot west constituency, the BJP could definitely not be seen backing Rupani publicly ahead of the elections," Mehta said.

    Senior political analyst and journalist from Rajkot, Jwalantbhai Channya said that Rupani could not have declared his wish to contest while being aware that the party does not want him to.

    "Rupani is aware that the party is not willing to accommodate him in the garb of its 'no repeat' policy that it is trying to follow. If he declares his interest publicly and is later not given a ticket, that would come as embarrassment to him," Channya said.

    "No doubt that he has been sidelined. There was no specific reason given when he was asked to resign by the high command. Lots of insiders cited COVID mismanagement in the state as one of the reasons, but Gujarat was not the only BJP state that mismanaged COVID," Channya added.

    After his removal last year, many expected him to get a bigger role at the Centre, just like Anandiben Patel who is currently the Governor of Uttar Pradesh.

    Rupani has now been made the Punjab in-charge for the BJP, a state where the party has not been able to make headway in the past eight years of winning elections in the country. With the AAP's meteoric rise in the state and the lingering ire of the farmers over the Centre's agricultural laws, cracking Punjab for the party will be an uphill task for Rupani.

    (This story was originally published on 5 November, and is being republished from The Quint's archives in the backdrop of former Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani, former deputy CM Nitin Patel, Bhupdendrasinh Chudasama, Pradeepsinh Jadeja, and Saurabh Patel not contesting the upcoming Assembly elections in the state.)

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

If Not Rupani in Rajkot West, Then Who?

Even though Rupani has not apprised the party high command of his willingness to contest from the seat for the third consecutive time, several BJP leaders including Rupani's loyalist Nitin Bharadwaj, Rajkot unit president Kamlesh Mirani, Vala's PA Tejas Batti, ex-councillor Kashyap Shukla, and deputy mayor Darshita Shah are among those who have officially apprised the party of their wish to contest from the constituency.

Speaking to The Quint, Mirani said that multiple candidates expressing willingness to get ticket from a seat is a normal phenomenon.

"The Rajkot West seat has, in fact, seen lesser number of aspirants compared to so many other seats. BJP is a democratic party, this is nothing new," said Mirani, adding that "come what may, the BJP will win."

However, asked if Rupani has shown any unwillingness to contest, Mirani said, "He is the best person to answer that."

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The Legacy of the Rajkot Seat

For 55 years since 1967 (since its Jan Sangh days), not once has the BJP lost the Rajkot West seat (known as Rajkot II till 2012). The constituency comprises mostly upper-caste Hindu voters, whose loyalty the party has managed to command for over five decades.

Former cabinet minister of Gujarat, Speaker of the Gujarat Assembly, and the Governor of Karnataka from 2014-2021, Vajubhai Vala has been winning the Rajkot West seat from 1985-2014, except for a brief period in 2001-2002 when Narendra Modi, now the Prime Minister, held the seat.

Clearly the Rajkot West seat is a matter of legacy for the BJP, with an assured victory for any candidate that contests.

ADVERTISEMENT

The Key Face-Off for the Rajkot West Ticket

The differences between Rupani and Vala, though never openly admitted, have been public knowledge. Naturally, Rupani loyalist Bharadwaj and Vala's PA Patti both showing interest in contesting from the seat draws eyeballs.

Senior political analyst and editor of a Rajkot daily called 'Headline,' Jagdish Mehta called Bharadwaj "Rupani's shadow."

"Given the winnability of the constituency, of course Rupani would want his man (Bharadwaj) to get a ticket. Bharadwaj getting a ticket is as good as Rupani getting it," Mehta said.

"Even when Rupani was in Gandhinagar as the CM, Bharadwaj was his man here in Rajkot," Mehta claimed, adding that "Bharadwaj's clout too has taken a dent since the sidelining of Rupani."

On the other hand, Vala backing his own PA for the ticket from the constituency is clearly a battle of maintaining clouts within the party, he added.

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Why Rupani Might Not Want to Contest and What Next

Despite claims of being sidelined, Rupani has very much been a part of key decisions of the party and is a member of the core committee formed by state BJP President CR Patil. The core committee is currently tasked with deciding upon the candidates, the final decision on which will reportedly be taken in Delhi on 8 and 9 November.

"When Rupani was removed, a message went out that the BJP did not see the Rupani government fit to rule or win the upcoming election. So, when it comes to Rupani being a candidate for the Rajkot west constituency, the BJP could definitely not be seen backing Rupani publicly ahead of the elections," Mehta said.

Senior political analyst and journalist from Rajkot, Jwalantbhai Channya said that Rupani could not have declared his wish to contest while being aware that the party does not want him to.

"Rupani is aware that the party is not willing to accommodate him in the garb of its 'no repeat' policy that it is trying to follow. If he declares his interest publicly and is later not given a ticket, that would come as embarrassment to him," Channya said.

"No doubt that he has been sidelined. There was no specific reason given when he was asked to resign by the high command. Lots of insiders cited COVID mismanagement in the state as one of the reasons, but Gujarat was not the only BJP state that mismanaged COVID," Channya added.

After his removal last year, many expected him to get a bigger role at the Centre, just like Anandiben Patel who is currently the Governor of Uttar Pradesh.

Rupani has now been made the Punjab in-charge for the BJP, a state where the party has not been able to make headway in the past eight years of winning elections in the country. With the AAP's meteoric rise in the state and the lingering ire of the farmers over the Centre's agricultural laws, cracking Punjab for the party will be an uphill task for Rupani.

(This story was originally published on 5 November, and is being republished from The Quint's archives in the backdrop of former Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani, former deputy CM Nitin Patel, Bhupdendrasinh Chudasama, Pradeepsinh Jadeja, and Saurabh Patel not contesting the upcoming Assembly elections in the state.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Read and Breaking News at the Quint, browse for more from gujarat-elections

Topics:  Rajkot   Vijay Rupani   Gujarat Elections 

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