At least seven legislators who have won the Gujarat Assembly elections five times or more are running for re-election in the state elections next month.
The ruling BJP has re-nominated five of the leaders for another term, while one has run as an independent candidate. Yogesh Patel (Manjalpur), Pabubha Manek (Dwarka), Keshu Nakrani (Gariadhar), Purshottam Solanki (Bhavnagar rural), and Pankaj Desai are the BJP’s five candidates (Nadiad).
Apart from them, the founder of the Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP), Chhotu Vasava and Madhu Shrivastav, who was denied a ticket by the BJP, are running as independent candidates. Over decades, these leaders have been able to build rapport with party workers and supporters. Political analysts say that while caste equations help them, it is their personal leadership qualities that really help them.
Elections for the 182-member Gujarat Assembly will be held in two stages on December 1 and 5, with vote counting beginning on December 8. Patel, Manek, and Vasava have won seven Assembly elections and are running for an eighth. Nakrani and Shrivastav have won six elections and are expected to win a seventh.
Desai and Solanki have won five elections and are running for a sixth. Shirish Kashikar, a political analyst from Ahmedabad, believes that their experience working at the grassroots level and special rapport with their party workers over decades gives them a distinct advantage over the others. Yogesh Patel, 76, began his winning streak for the Janata Dal in 1990 when he ran for the Raopura Assembly seat.
Pabubha Manek, the BJP’s Dwarka candidate and seven-time MLA, had his Assembly membership invalidated due to an election affidavit issue during his most recent tenure as a legislator. He was disqualified as an MLA after the Gujarat High Court declared his election invalid and ordered a byelection in 2019.
Mahesh Vasava withdrew his nomination a few days ago, and his father is now running as an independent, as he did in 1995. Chhotu Vasava had also run unsuccessfully for the Lok Sabha seat of Bharuch three times, in 2004, 2009, and 2019. Madhu Shrivastav, who has the image of a strongman from Vaghodia, is also refusing to give up, despite the fact that the BJP, which he represented for five terms, has decided not to field him in the upcoming election.
Purshottam Solanki, a Koli community leader, is running for a sixth term from Bhavnagar rural. From 1998 to 2007, he represented the Ghogho seat in Bhavnagar district three times before the seat was delineated. He then held the rural seat of Bhavnagar twice, in 2012 and 2017. He was named in a Rs 400-crore fisheries scam that allegedly began in 2008, when he was the fisheries minister.