Shah to contest from Gandhinagar, eases Advani out

L K Advani

Ahmedabad, March 21 (IANS) Setting at rest all speculations, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Thursday announced that its national president Amit Shah would contest the Lok Sabha elections from Gandhinagar, in place of veteran leader and incumbent MP L.K. Advani.

Ninety-one-year-old Advani who represented the Gandhinagar seat for six terms, except for 1996, won the 2014 elections with a huge vote margin of 4.83 lakh, next only to Narendra Modi’s 5 lakh-plus votes from Vadodara, which he vacated to retain the Varanasi seat in Uttar Pradesh.

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In 1996, then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee (his first for a term of 13 days) had won the seat. Vajpayee vacated Gandhinagar seat later for Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh.

BJP sources said the key aim of Shah contesting elections and that too from Gandhinagar was to rev up the party cadres across Gujarat with a goal to win all 26 seats in the state again. Secondly, Gandhinagar is the safest seat and the Congress has never won from here since 1989.

BJP spokesperson Prashant Vala said: “The announcement of Shah’s name has electrified the cadres and there is an atmosphere of celebration everywhere. There is no doubt about the BJP winning all the Lok Sabha seats in Gujarat.”

Reacting to the news, Congress spokesperson Pragati Ahir said: “It is the fear of loss of many seats in Gujarat that has prompted the BJP president to contest elections from Gandhinagar.”

Just over a year ago, Shah was sent to the Rajya Sabha and now the party was “rushing him to contest Lok Sabha polls,” she said.

According to sources, BJP patriarch Advani who lifted the saffron party to national significance in the 1990’s and whose charioteer during his famous Ayodhya Rathyatra was present Prime Minister Narendra Modi, neither expressed his wish nor was he asked if he would like to contest the elections.

What’s more, there had been a clamour for over a week from the band of Shah supporters that he should take the plunge from Gandhinagar. However, there was a parallel demand too from the camp of Shah’s bete noire in Gujarat politics, Madhya Pradesh Governor and former Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel, that she or her daughter Anaar Patel should fight elections from Gandhinagar.

No sooner did demands start from Shah’s supporters, with posters and banners cropping up in various areas, a matcher came from Anandiben Patel’s supporters when she visited the Gujarat capital and her posters were splashed across the city. She even held meetings with her supporters.

Albeit, Anandiben Patel and her daughter Anaar quickly denied speculations that either of them was in the race for the ticket. Sources said the display of strength was only to convey the message that if Shah’s name was being discussed, she was also there.

Amid all this, another rumour started floating around that Modi may choose to contest from the Gandhinagar seat.

The BJP’s state parliamentary board had finalised at least two names for all the seats, but there was no discussion on the Gandhinagar since the Gujarat party leadership would have no say on this.