Saurashtra, with 52 of the total 182 Assembly seats in the state, is gearing up for an intense battle that will decide the fate of heavyweights from all three major political parties.
This politically decisive region goes to polls in first phase on December 13.
Besides being a stronghold of Patels, the community to which Keshubhai Patel belongs, the region has also become crucial because of poor monsoon this year, suicides by farmers and being the centre of rebellion against CM Narendta Modi.
While all three major parties — BJP, Congress and GPP — are likely to announce their candidates from Monday onwards, it’s already known that heavyweights from all these parties are set to contest from Saurashtra.
At present, Congress has 12 of the 52 seats in the region. NCP has one and the rest is with BJP. While Congress is likely to repeat its sitting MLAs, the buzz in BJP is that many sitting MLAs may be dropped to bring in fresh faces.
Among the heavyweights set to enter the fray are GPP president Keshubhai Patel, state Congress president Arjun Modhwadia and state BJP president Ranchoddas Faldu, who will contest from Visavadar, Porbandar and a seat from Jamnagar district, respectively.
Bhavnagar rural seat is likely to see a clash between state Congress Legislative Party leader Shaktisinh Gohil and state’s Fisheries Minister Purshottam Solanki.
Other big leaders likely to contest are state’s Agriculture Minister Dilip Sanghani (Amreli), Finance Minister Vaju Vala (Rajkot west), Industries Minister Saurabh Patel (Botad), Rajkot Congress MP Kunvarji Bavalia (Jasdan or Botad), rebel BJP MLA from Mahuva Kanu Kalsaria and GPP general secretary Gordhan Zadaphia.
The BJP has begun a hi-tech campaign with Modi addressing simultaneous meets in Rajkot, Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Surat on Sunday during which his speech in Ahmedabad was telecast live in other three cities with his 3D hologram images.
On Saturday, Keshubhai Patel held a mega convention for Saurashtra in Rajkot.
The Congress, which had flown in several of its leaders past week, is likely to intensify its campaign after announcements of candidates, probably on Monday.
“BJP will announce its first list on November 21 and 22,” said party spokesperson I K Jadeja.
Zadaphia, who is GPP general secretary, said, “The party will hold a meeting on Sunday to decide candidates.
Senior state congress leaders are already in Delhi to decide the list in consultations with the high command.
The contest is triangular in 20 of the seats in the region where Leuva Patels hold sway.
Besides, Sadbhavna Manch recently floated by Kalsaria is also set to contest five seats in the coastal belt of Bhavnagar and Amreli districts.