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Congress gives Bharuch and Bhavnagar seats in Gujarat to AAP despite opposition from local leaders: Read what could be reasons

Umesh Makwana, the MLA from Botad, will contest from the Bhavnagar Lok Sabha constituency, while the controversial MLA Chaitar Vasava, recently embroiled in a case, will contest from the Bharuch Lok Sabha seat on the AAP ticket.

After three to four days of intense discussions and political upheaval, the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) have formally announced an alliance in Gujarat. Under this arrangement, the Congress will contest in 24 out of the total 26 seats. The remaining two seats will see AAP candidates in the fray. Before the seat-sharing agreement, AAP had already announced its candidates for these two constituencies. Umesh Makwana, the MLA from Botad, will contest from the Bhavnagar Lok Sabha constituency, while the controversial MLA Chaitar Vasava, recently embroiled in a case, will contest from the Bharuch Lok Sabha seat on the AAP ticket.

The Bharuch Lok Sabha seat emerged as a focal point in discussions surrounding this alliance. Notably, it holds significance as the hometown of former Congress MP Ahmed Patel, who secured victories in two Lok Sabha elections in 1977 and 1984. However, since the BJP’s triumph in 1989, the party has maintained a stronghold here without any losses. Following Ahmed Patel’s demise, his children, Faisal Patel and Mumtaz Patel, entered mainstream politics, prompting speculation that the Congress might field one of them in the Lok Sabha elections. However, this scenario has now been disrupted by the Congress’s decision to ally with the AAP and give away the seat to the alliance partner.

What work did the Congress do in the Bharuch Lok Sabha constituency?

Despite the vocal objections raised by Faisal Patel and Mumtaz Patel, who hail from Bharuch, the Congress has ultimately conceded the Bharuch seat to the Aam Aadmi Party. Despite being a constituency with a Muslim majority, there could be multiple factors influencing Congress’s decision in this regard.

Since AAP’s Chaitar Vasava clinched the Dediapada seat in the assembly elections, the party has been eager to nominate him as its candidate for the Lok Sabha elections. Alongside extensive campaigning by the party’s IT cell in his favour, certain YouTube channels, ostensibly impartial, subtly or overtly promoted the narrative of ‘Chaitar Vasava for Lok Sabha’. Despite his recent involvement in a criminal incident where he was caught assaulting forest workers, the Aam Aadmi Party officially declared Chaitar Vasava as its candidate for the Bharuch Lok Sabha seat, perceiving the controversy surrounding him as an opportunity amidst adversity.

The Bharuch Lok Sabha constituency has a notable Muslim population, alongside a substantial demographic of the tribal community residing in the eastern region of the constituency. Historically, the Muslim vote has been regarded as the traditional stronghold of the Congress. However, after 1984, Congress didn’t secure victory in this seat due to polarised voting patterns. In this context, the Aam Aadmi Party’s strategy here could be to garner support by portraying Chaitar Vasava as a ‘tribal representative’ to appeal to the tribal electorate.

However, a challenge arises as local Congress activists and supporters align themselves with Ahmed Patel’s children. Both Faisal and Mumtaz Patel have stated that while they may accept the decision of the party leadership if the Bharuch seat is conceded to the AAP, they will not actively campaign for or endorse Chaitar Vasava. Should this scenario unfold, it could render the alliance futile.

In such a scenario, there’s a risk of vote fragmentation once more. Even if the Congress opts not to field a candidate, if its supporters do not rally behind the Aam Aadmi Party, the status quo may prevail, potentially leading to a situation where the Bharatiya Janata Party emerges victorious in the direct contest between the two parties.

Furthermore, elections are multifaceted and cannot be solely determined by one issue such as caste and religion equations. It would be naive to assume that an entire Lok Sabha seat could be secured solely based on caste demographics or religious dynamics. Numerous factors influence electoral outcomes. Additionally, the BJP benefits from the formidable presence of Narendra Modi as its face in the Lok Sabha elections. Over the past decades, the BJP has entrenched itself in this constituency, garnering steadfast support from voters who prioritise Modi’s leadership, evaluate his performance, and focus on his government’s accomplishments rather than considering caste or religious affiliations or other parties. Consequently, while the Congress or the AAP may harbour aspirations for a transformative breakthrough by endorsing Chaitar Vasava, the likelihood of such aspirations materialising appears minimal.

What could be the reason behind the Bhavnagar seat being allotted to the AAP?

Regarding the Bhavnagar seat, the Aam Aadmi Party’s performance in the assembly elections was notably stronger compared to other areas. The party secured victories in two constituencies within the region – Botad and Gariadhar. In contrast, the Congress failed to clinch a single seat in the Bhavnagar, Surendranagar, and Amreli areas. This could potentially explain why the Congress has opted to give up yet another seat, as the party stands to neither gain nor lose significantly in this electoral calculus.

However, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) holds a significantly dominant position in this seat compared to the two other parties. The BJP has maintained an unbroken winning streak here since 1991. Bhartiben Shiyal has emerged victorious in the last two terms, witnessing an increase in her vote share from 59 per cent in 2014 to 63 per cent in 2019. In the 2019 elections, the Congress candidate managed to secure only 31.86 per cent of the votes, amounting to half the votes garnered by the BJP candidate.

Image Source: Times of India

Should the Aam Aadmi Party choose to contest the Bhavnagar seat, it lacks a prominent figure or a strong party reputation in the area. While securing victories in two assembly seats might suffice to persuade the Congress to ally, winning Lok Sabha elections hinges on different dynamics. Assembly elections revolve around distinct issues compared to Lok Sabha elections. Furthermore, if the Lok Sabha constituency encompasses a sizable area, it could lead to vote division.

Moreover, Umesh Makwana, the sitting AAP MLA from Botad who has been nominated as the Lok Sabha candidate from Bhavnagar, hasn’t particularly left a noteworthy impact in his constituency over the past eighteen months. This may not persuade those who didn’t vote for him in the Assembly elections to reconsider their stance.

Given these circumstances, it appears that the upcoming Lok Sabha election for the Aam Aadmi Party will mirror the situation of the assembly elections. During the assembly elections, there was speculation from AAP leaders and supporters about the possibility of forming the government, but such claims merely created an atmosphere. However, when the results were announced, the party only secured five seats. Furthermore, the victories were attributed to individual efforts, caste affiliations, and internal discord within other parties, rather than the overall reputation or credibility of the AAP. This sets the party apart from the established parties like BJP and Congress.

In the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, the BJP has ambitiously set a target of securing over 370 seats nationwide. Naturally, within Gujarat, the party aims to capture all 26 seats. While two months may seem like a substantial period in the context of the election campaign, current assessments of both local and national politics indicate a high likelihood of Gujarat once again overwhelmingly supporting Modi’s leadership, delivering all seats to the BJP.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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Meghalsinh Parmar
Meghalsinh Parmar
A Journalist. Deputy Editor- OpIndia Gujarati. Not an author but love to write.

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