For the first time in 20 years, the BJP has sent a lone Christian candidate, Mohan Konkani, to the seat of Vyara for Gujarat’s two-stage polls next month. Konkani, 48, will fight four-time Congressional MLA Punaji Gamit.
Vyara constituency, where about 45 percent of the 2.23 lakh voters are Christians, falls under the tribal-dominated Tapi district. This seat is considered an unshakable congressional bulwark.
Gamit, 64, who converted to Christianity, has held the Vyara seat since 2007. In the 2017 polls, he won the seat by beating BJP’s Chaudhari Arvindbhai Rumsibhai by a margin of 24,414 votes.
Konkani, a social worker and farmer by profession, has been a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party since 1995. In the 2015 tapi district panchayat polls, he defeated Congress Co-operative leader Mavji Chaudhary.
Konkani thanked the BJP leadership and was quoted as saying Hindu times as saying, “I am deeply indebted to the party high command and BJP for their trust and belief in me. On December 1, I will make history in Vyara and I am sure of it. The political atmosphere in Vyara has improved and I can count on the support of the 72,000 Christian voters in the constituency.”
When asked about the pro-minority stance of the Saffron Party in Vyara, a senior BJP leader told Hindu times, “I can talk to any government official in the BJP regime and have my concerns addressed. The Hindutva era is over and now it’s ‘Sab Ka Saath, Sab Ka Vikas’.”
Of the 27 tribal seats in the 182-member House, at least eight seats are overwhelmingly Christian-dominated, though Congress has fielded only one Christian candidate for many years as a symbolic gesture.
Meanwhile, senior BJP leaders including National President JP Nadda are expected to hold public meetings in Gujarat’s 89 constituencies going to the polls in the first phase of the elections alongside Union ministers and chief ministers on Friday on December 1.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and his Madhya Pradesh counterpart Shivraj Singh Chouhan will address three and four gatherings respectively. Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Union Ministers VK Singh and Faggan Singh Kulaste are among other party leaders who will address rallies.
Saurashtra, Kutch and South Gujarat are the regions going to the polls in the first phase, while 93 seats in the north and center of the state are polled on December 5.
The BJP has won six consecutive elections in Gujarat since 1995 and is doing everything it can to keep its winning streak unbroken in the traditionally bipolar poll involving Congress, this time brightened by the arrival of the AAP.
(with input from PTI)
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