The BJP Saturday announced its second list of six candidates, where it dropped one more former minister from the Vijay Rupani cabinet and one more sitting MLA.
It announced Sejal Pandya as the candidate from Bhavnagar East, earlier represented by Vibhavari Dave, who was a former minister. The BJP dropped Jankhana Patel, the sitting MLA from Choryasi, which has the highest number of voters with the highest share of voters coming from Koli community—15 per cent.
Patel was from the Koli community. Contesting now from Choryasi is Sandip Desai, the president of the Surat District BJP, who is an Anahvil Brahmin. This takes the total sitting MLAs dropped to 40 and the total candidates declared to 166, of which all 89 seats going to polls on December 1, have been covered.
The BJP also nominated an old timer, and former MLA Mulu Bera who has been in and out of the assembly having won in 1995 by a thin margin, losing in 2002, and 2012 and winning in 2007 and will this time contest from Khambhaliya, a new constituency for him. He last contested from Jamnagar north in 2012. From Kutiyana where the NCP has nominated sitting MLA Kandhal Jadeja, the BJP nominated Dheliben Odedara who is president of the Kutiyana municipality. Choryasi has the highest number of voters in the state — over 5 lakh. In the 2017 Assembly elections, BJP candidate Jankhana Patel, from the Koli community won from this seat with a margin of over one lakh votes defeating Congress’s Yogesh Patel.
This time, both the Congress and AAP has fielded candidates from the Koli Patel community — Kanti Patel and Prakash Contractor respectively.
However, BJP has chosen Sandip Desai, who belongs to the Anavil Brahmin community.
“There were around 50 BJP leaders who had shown interest in contesting from this seat. The party had kept faith on me and I will work hard with my teams and win,” said Desai.
An Arts graduate from MTB college in Surat city, Desai, a resident of Sachin which falls in Choryasi constituency, remained the general secretary of Surat BJP for two terms since 2016.
Desai is also the vice-president of Surat district cooperative bank, director of SUMUL Dairy and vice-president of the Surat APMC.
Desai was mired in a controversy after a purported photograph of him with a BJP councillor surfaced on social media in September. State BJP general secretary Pradipsinh Vaghela had defended Desai and said that those involved “defaming the image” of Desai will not be spared.
Desai had lodged a police complaint in connection with with the incident, following which police had arrested one person. He had suspended Ajit Patel, director of Sumul Dairy and ruling party leader of Bardoli taluka panchayat, after an “obscene video” surfaced on social media last month.
Mulu Bera (57), a veteran of seven Assembly elections, had won his maiden Assembly election in from Bhanvad seat in the then undivided Jamnagar district in 1995 and had managed to retain his seat in 1998.
He had served as a minister in Keshubhai Patel’s government and then in Narendra Modi’s government. But he lost the 2002 Assembly election to Vikram Madam of Congress. After Madam resigned as MLA following his election to the Lok Sabha, Bera snatched back the seat in the consequent bypoll in 2004 and became Labour and Employment Minister in the Modi government again.
But in the 2007 Assembly election, Bera lost to Hamir Kanara of Congress from Bhanvad. After Bhanvad seat was delimited in 2012, the BJP fielded him from Jamnagar North, an urban seat. He was defeated by Dharmendrasinh Jadeja of Congress.
The Bhavnagar East candidate, Sejal Pandya, is wife of Rajiv Pandya, the incumbent president of Bhavnagar district unit of the BJP. A home science graduate, 46-year-old Sejal is associated with three NGOs that work for the education of underprivileged and help the poor get medicines at subsidised rates.
Dheliben Odedra, who is set to contest from Kutiyana,has been the president of the BJP-ruled Kutiyana municipality for the past many years. Her husband Malde Odedra is considered a rival of sitting NCP MLA Kandhal Jadeja in exercising political influence in this area.