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NEW DELHI: Congress is set to field all 43 of its Gujarat MLAs in the assembly elections, in what appears a step to repay the loyalty exhibited by these legislators in the face of two strong attempts by BJP and its “proxies” to lure them out of the party fold.
Sources said the party has decided to renominate the MLAs who stayed behind even as some resigned from the party and others who sided with dissident Shankarsinh Vaghela ahead of the Rajya Sabha elections in August.
Despite an exodus and strong bids to win over others, Congress veteran Ahmed Patel managed to score a narrow victory over BJP. “These are strong MLAs who did not bow to massive allurements,” an office-bearer said.
It also appears a serious bid to convey to members that Congress would stand by functionaries who withstand poaching attempts by rivals. The party had been hit hard by defections of seniors ahead of the state polls in Assam and Uttarakhand that it lost.
Congress won 57 seats out of 182 in the 2012 Gujarat polls while BJP won 119. However, defections have left Congress with 43 MLAs. Sources said the party has finalised around 80 tickets and is selecting the remaining. “Our candidates will have enough time to canvass,” a senior leader said.
It is feared that Shankarsinh Vaghela’s decision to set up his own outfit portends ill for the “secular” camp. While Vaghela’s sympathisers have mostly joined BJP his new platform seems a future home for those denied Congress tickets.
It would aim to split Congress votes, benefitting BJP. In the fresh selection of candidates, Congress is likely to take into account the recommendations of young community leaders like Hardik Patel of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti and Dalit activist Jignesh Mevani. OBC leader Alpesh Thakore has already joined Congress.