Sunday, Feb 25, 2018 | Last Update : 05:33 PM IST
Vala vacated the seat for Narendra Modi in 2002 after the latter was then nominated as the chief minister.
Rajkot: The battle for Rajkot-West seat, the traditional BJP fortress, could be a cliffhanger for its high-profile contestant and Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani who is facing a challenger in Congress’ Indranil Rajyaguru.
Earlier known as Rajkot-II, the seat is considered as ‘safe’ for the saffron party which has been representing it since 1985. The constituency goes to polls on December 9 in the first phase of the high-stakes Gujarat elections.
Vajubhai Vala, incumbent governor of Karnataka, had won the seat seven times for the BJP — from 1985 to 2012. In 1985, he had defeated Harshadba Chudasama.
Mr Vala vacated the seat for Narendra Modi in 2002 after the latter was then nominated as the chief minister.
Later, when Modi moved to Maninagar constituency, Vala continued his undefeated run till 2012.
Later, after Mr Vala was shifted to Karnataka, Vijay Rupani won the bypoll from the seat in 2014.
Though Rajkot-West is a stronghold of the RSS, the Congress has mounted a strong challenge by bringing in Rajyaguru, the sitting MLA from Rajkot-East, to rework the caste combination in the party’s favour.
To retain his seat, Rupani has to surmount the angry Patidars as well as the trading community, which is smarting under the impact of demonetisation and rollout of the GST.
Out of 3.15 lakh voters in the constituency, the number of Kadva and Leuva Patidars is the highest at 62,000, followed by Brahmins, Lohana and Jain communities.
The Congress is trying to direct the simmering anger among Patidars over lack of reservation in education and government jobs under the BJP rule against Rupani.
The quota agitation and Hardik Patel joining hands with Congress may dent the BJP’s base among the Patidars, who till now were considered as the bedrock of the BJP’s support base in Gujarat.
Congress nominee Rajyaguru, the richest candidate in Gujarat elections, believes that he has won the “initial battle” against Rupani by keeping him busy in the constituency since the poll schedule was announced.
“I wanted to keep the chief minister busy in Rajkot-West constituency and morally I have won the initial battle as the chief minister has to visit his constituency more than once in a week,” Rajyaguru claimed.