Assembly elections in Gujarat will take place in two phases - December 1 and 5 and the counting of votes will happen on December 8. The state which has been a bastion of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party for the past two decades is expected to witness a triangular contest between BJP, Congress and the AAP.
In 2017, the BJP had a narrow victory over the main opposition Congress by winning 99 setas. In 36 seats, the victory margin was less than 5,000 votes. The Congress ended up with 76 seats in the 182 member assembly. However, this time the arithmetic seems tilted towards the BJP as it has roped in Patidar leader Hardik Patel and OBC leader Alpesh Thakor under its fold. Things might get more difficult for the main-opposition party Congress, as Arvind Kejriwal's AAP is all set to cut into the votes of the Congress.
Here are 5 election contests to watch out for in Gujarat:
1. Morbi: The Morbi seat will be an interesting seat in 2022 because of the recent bridge collapse in which 135 people lost their lives. The seat was won by a Congress candidate Brijesh Merja in 2017 as he defeated five-time MLA Kanti Amrutiya from the seat. However, Merja switched his side to the BJP and won a bypoll in 2022. He became a state cabinet minister. This is a Patel dominated constitutency and the seat might once again throw a surprise after the bridge collapse tragedy.
From this seat, the Congress has fielded Jayanti Patel, its district President. However, Patel has also lost this seat four times in a row: 1995,2002, 2017 and 2020. AAP has fielded Pankaj Ransariya from the seat, a known face in the region.
2. Vadgam seat: Young Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani won as an independent from this seat in 2017. Mevani, who later joined the Congress has been fielded by the party from this seat again. Vadgam seat has a huge population of Dalits where Mevani exercises huge support. To counter Mevani in his own yard, BJP has fielded ex Congress MLA Manilal Vaghela, who quit the Congress and joined the BJP in April 2022. Vaghela was reportedly angry with the Congress for sidelining him for Mevani. After being fielded by the BJP, Vaghela strongly believes he can outsmart Mevani from this seat.
3. Jamnagar North: The Jamnagar seat will see an interesting contest because the BJP has fielded a newcomer Rivaba Jadeja, wife of Indian cricketer Ravindra Jadeja. Surprisingly, BJP has dropped the current MLA Dharmendrasingh Jadeja also known as Hakubha from this seat. Rivaba had joined the party in 2019 after the couple met PM Narendra Modi in 2018. Rivaba might win the seat as the BJP has considerable support on this seat. But the seat might also give a surprise as the party has fielded a new face.
4. Viramgam seat: Popular Patidar leader Hardik Patel, who had been a strong reason why BJP faired average in 2017 polls has been fielded by the saffron party from this seat. Patel, who recently jumped the ship to BJP, has strong Patidar support from this seat. At 28, he is also the youngest candidate to have been fielded in the election. Patel, who was with Congress untill last year, commands a huge influence among the Patidar voters. The Viramgam seat is also interesting because it has been a Congress fortress since 2012. In 2017 also, BJP's Tejshriben Dilipkumar Patel had lost to Congress's Lakhabhai Bharwad.
5. Jam Khambaliya seat: The Jam Khambaliya seat is an important one this time because AAP's CM candidate Isudan Gadhvi has been fielded by the party. The announcement came on Sunday (November 13) when Arvind Kejriwal announced his candidature from this seat. The seat is held by Congress MLA Vikrambhai Arjanbhai Madam. In 2012, it was won by BJP's Poonamben Maadam. Gadhvi, who was the National Joint General Secretary Convenor of AAP in Gujarat is a native of Devbhumi Dwarka. It will be interesting to see how AAP, who is the new entrant in Gujarat's politics will wrest this seat from Congress.