By-elections to seven Assembly seats in Gujarat will be held on April 30 alongside the Lok Sabha polls in 26 parliamentary constituencies.
The Assembly seats which would go to polls are: Abdasa, Himmatnagar, Somnath, Lathi, Visavadar, Rapar and Mandvi (Surat). Among the 7 seats, by-elections to five except for Visavadar and Rapar were necessitated after sitting Congress MLAs from there joined BJP recently.
After being declared as the candidate for Abdasa in Kutch district, national spokesperson of Congress, Shaktisinh Gohil, who lost from Bhavnagar Rural seat in 2012 Assembly elections, kick started his campaign.
He is fighting against Chabbil Patel, who recently switched sides and crossed over to BJP. Patel was sitting Congress MLA from Abdasa seat but he resigned from the state Assembly and joined the saffron party, which fielded him.
Similarly, other Congress contenders have also stepped up their efforts to secure the seat.
The youngest among these candidates is Dr Nishant Chotai (35) for Somnath seat.
Chotai, an orthopaedic surgeon, said that people will not forgive those who breached their trust. He was referring to sitting Congress MLA Jasa Barad, who joined BJP recently.
"In 2012, voters gave mandate to Barad and sent him to Assembly as the Congress candidate. But, he cheated the people of Somnath by switching sides for personal gains and forced the election. I assure my voters that I will not leave them after winning," said Chotai, who is confident that Congress will once again secure the seat.
In Rapar, veteran Congress candidate Babubhai Shah will be highlighting the failure of BJP government to bring in Narmada water. Shah also claimed that 'Modi magic' will not work in Kutch.
"Not just Rapar, whole Kutch is still waiting for the waters of Narmada. The BJP government or their former MLAs never did anything worthwhile in that direction. We have started meeting people to make them aware about the failures of BJP leaders in solving problems of Kutch," said Shah.
Congress candidates for remaining 4 seats are: Vipul Patel from Himmatnagar, Hanubhai Dhorajia from Lathi, Harshad Ribadia from Visavadar and Anand Chaudhari for Mandvi(ST) seat.
On the other hand, BJP is banking on four 'tried and tested' candidates, who earlier won as Congress MLAs and recently joined BJP.
They include Chhabil Patel from Abdasa, Bavku Undhad from Lathi, Jasa Barad from Somnath and Rajendrasinh Chavda from Himmatnagar seat. For Mandvi seat, BJP has chosen Hemlata Vasava who had lost against Congress' Prabhu Vasava.
By-elections was necessary in this seat as sitting MLA Prabhi Vasava joined BJP after resigning as MLA. The ruling party has fielded him as Lok Sabha candidate.
For Visavadar seat, BJP gave ticket to former chief minister Keshubhai Patel's son Bharat Patel, as Keshubhai declared his retirement and quit as MLA. For Rapar seat, BJP has chosen Kutch district president Pankaj Mehta after the sitting BJP MLA died following cardiac arrest.
According to BJP, the issue of development will remain in the center stage of their campaign in these seven seats.
BJP also claimed that voters will once again put trust in defected MLAs, who are now contesting on BJP ticket.
"There is no question of breach of trust by these MLAs, as they first consulted their supporters and voters before taking the decision to join BJP. It was the Congress leaders and some workers who staged protests, not common men.
These candidates are already having support of their voters and now they are contesting under BJP, thus, they are bound to win," said media convener of state BJP Harshad Patel.