Stage set for Rajya Sabha polls in Gujarat

Ruling party's S Jaishankar, Jugalji Thakor in face-off against Chandrika Chudasama, Gaurav Pandya

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Stage set for Rajya Sabha polls in Gujarat
Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani (L) offers sweets to Jugalji Thakor as he files his nomination for RS elections in Gandhinagar on Tuesday

The picture of the upcoming bye-polls for Rajya Sabha in Gujarat became clear on Tuesday as both, Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress, finalised their candidates. The BJP fielded External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Jugalji Thakor, while Congress finalised veteran Chandrika Chudasama and Gaurav Pandya.

Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and state BJP chief Jitu Vaghani accompanied him while he presented his nomination forms to the returning officer, CB Pandya. OBC leader Jugalji Thakor is another BJP candidate contesting the Rajya Sabha polls.

Later on, talking to media persons at Shree Kamalam, the state headquarters of BJP, Jaishankar said that it is a matter of privilege for him to represent a state, which has produced statesmen such as Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel, Narendra Modi, and Amit Shah.

"Gujarat has emerged on the global map through Vibrant Gujarat Global Summits and Gujaratis have contributed their might in building India's reputation globally. In whichever country I was posted I found Gujaratis. I will keep coming regularly to the state," said Jaishankar.

BJP's OBC leader; Cong veterans in the fray

BJP candidates filed nomination at 12:39 in the afternoon, considered as a Vijay Muharat. Thakor came into prominence when he ensured that votes of Thakor and Other Backward Castes (OBCs) go to BJP during the Lok Sabha elections. OBCs constitute about 22% votes in Gujarat.

While speaking to media persons at Shree Kamalam, Thakor said that Congress is promoting divisions among communities, while BJP is bringing everyone together. "As a member of Baxi Panch, it is my pride to be a representative of people in Rajya Sabha. Congress is playing divisive politics, and causing fissures among communities. I will represent the people of Gujarat in Rajya Sabha and will raise issues concerning them," said Thakor.

Things moved fast in Congress on Tuesday, the last day for filing of nominations for the bye-polls. Till Monday, the party had short-listed five candidates and the final two were to be decided by the high command in New Delhi.

These were former state minister Chandrika Chudasama, Karsandas Soneri, Manish Doshi, Gaurav Pandya and Balu Patel. However, in the morning, the party finalised Chudasama and Pandya as its candidates.

They were accompanied by Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC) president Amit Chavda and Leader of the Opposition, Paresh Dhanani while filing nominations.

Chudasama is a four-time MLA, former Minister of State for Panchayati Raj and Ports (1989-90) and Minister of Revenue and Energy (1992-95). She was also the chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee (2002-2007), during which the Sujalam Sufalam scandal came to light. She has also been a member of various committees such as Panchayati Raj, Social Welfare, Mahila Suraksha Samiti, Government Assurance Committee. She contested elections to the state Legislative Assembly in 2002 and 2007 but could not win.

Pandya is a party leader from south Gujarat and is considered close to Ahmed Patel, who has been a political adviser to former Congress president Sonia Gandhi and now Rahul Gandhi. However, south Gujarat has been one of the weakest zones for the party in Gujarat. It failed to win even a single seat from Surat city in 2017 assembly polls, while in the Lok Sabha polls, Congress candidates from Navsari and Surat lost to BJP with record margins.

Need dynamic, flexible foreign policy: S Jaishankar

On foreign policy issues, S Jaishankar said that policies of the country need to be dynamic and flexible to adapt to changing global geopolitics.

On the upcoming visit of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to India, he said that India will try to find common ground on trade issues. Terrorism, Afghanistan, the Indo-Pacific, Iran, trade issues, and growing bilateral defence ties will be the focus of discussions between the Indian government and Pompeo on Wednesday.

"We will be meeting with a positive attitude. Both countries are having their own interests. And it is natural to have some conflicts because of that. We will find common ground using diplomacy," he said.

He said that negotiations are also on with China and relations between both the countries have stabilised. Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to visit India this year and Jaishankar will also visit China prior to the President's visit.

Who’s Who

  • BJP’s Jugalji Thakor is the richest candidate, with total wealth of over Rs 101 crore
  • Congress’s Chandrika Chudasama has declared assets worth around Rs 2.56 crore, the lowest among the four nominees 
  • Gaurav Pandya, the other Congress candidate, declared that he owns a revolver and faces charges under various IPC sections 
  • S Jaishankar, his wife and a dependent own assets of Rs 15.82 crore. The former foreign secretary is MA, M Phil and PhD from Jawaharlal Nehru University
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