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7 MLAs who won five times or more in Fray

At least seven lawmakers who have won Gujarat elections for five or more times are seeking another term in state polls scheduled for next month.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has given confidence to five of the leaders by appointing them for another term, while one has sought to run as an independent.

These five BJP candidates are Yogesh Patel (Manjalpur seat), Pabubha Manek (Dwarka), Keshu Nakrani (Gariadhar), Purshottam Solanki (Bhavnagar nationwide) and Pankaj Desai (Nadiad).

Apart from them, Chhotu Vasava, the founder of the Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP), and Madhu Shrivastav, who has been denied entry by the BJP, are competing as independent candidates.

These leaders have been able to build relationships with party employees and supporters over decades. The caste equations also favor them, but more than that, it’s their personal leadership skills that serve them well, political analysts say.

Elections for the 182-member Gujarat Assembly will be held in two stages on December 1 and 5, with vote counting to begin on December 8.

Patel, Manek and Vasava have won the Assembly polls seven times and are in contention for an eighth term.

Nakrani and Shrivastav have won six elections and expect to win for the seventh time.

Desai and Solanki have won five elections and are entering the poll race for the sixth time.

Their experience of working at the grassroots level and their special rapport with their party operatives over decades gives them a clear advantage over the others, Ahmedabad political analyst Shirish Kashikar told PTI.

Yogesh Patel, 76, started his winning streak in 1990 when he competed in the Janata Dal from the Raopura Assembly seat.

Although the BJP has said it will not give a party ticket to over 75s, Patel is the only exception in Gujarat.

At 76, he also has the honor of being the oldest candidate for the BJP.

He won five elections from Raopura before being hired from Manjalpur when the new seat was formed in 2012 after demarcation. He won twice against Manjalpur and is aiming to win a third from the seat this time.

Patel was a minister of state in the previous government of Vijay Rupani.

For Pabubha Manek, the seven-time candidate of the MLA and BJP from Dwarka, his last term as a legislator was embroiled in a legal battle that saw his membership of the Assembly invalid due to his election affidavit.

He was disqualified as an MLA after the Gujarat High Court voided his election in 2019 and ordered a bypoll.

The Supreme Court had refused to grant him any relief but ruled that the Dwarka Assembly seat should not be declared vacant.

Previously, after winning as an independent candidate in 1990, 1995 and 1998, Manek emerged victorious in the 2002 election on the congressional ticket. From 2007, he ran as a BJP candidate.

Another veteran of the election arena is tribal leader Chhotu Vasava, who first won the Jhagadia seat in Bharuch district in 1990 as a candidate for Janata Dal (JD).

He won the next election as an independent.

In 1998, he won as a JD candidate before contesting the next election on the Janata Dal (United) ticket.

In 2017, he floated the Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP) which he represented in the election that year and won.

When he was recently replaced by his son Mahesh Vasava as the BTP candidate for the upcoming poll, his supporters pushed him to submit a nomination as an independent, indicating that he has a strong hold on his supporters.

A few days ago, Mahesh Vasava withdrew his nomination and his father is now standing up to contest the election as an independent, something he did in 1995.

Chhotu Vasava had also unsuccessfully contested the Lok Sabha election from Bharuch seat three times – in 2004, 2009 and 2019.

Madhu Shrivastav, who has the image of a strongman from Vaghodia, is also unwilling to give up even when the BJP, the party he represented for five terms, decided not to field him for the upcoming elections.

He is now running as an independent candidate.

Shrivastav won his first election as an independent, before joining the BJP, winning in 1998, 2002, 2007, 2012 and 2017.

He has also sparked controversy in the past, including allegedly threatening a witness in the Best Bakery case after the Godhra riots.

Keshu Nakrani is looking forward to victory for the seventh time from Gariadhar seat in Bhavnagar district.

He won Sihor seat as a BJP candidate from 1995 to 2007, and in 2012 and 2017 and Gariadhar after the new seat came into being after demarcation.

Koli community leader Purshottam Solanki is fighting for a sixth term from rural Bhavnagar.

He represented Ghogho seat in Bhavnagar district three times from 1998 to 2007 before the seat was demarcated. Subsequently, he represented the rural seat of Bhavnagar twice in 2012 and 2017.

He was named in an alleged Rs 400-crore fishing scam dating back to 2008 when he was the Fisheries Minister.

Solanki has a strong hold on the Koli community, which accounts for a significant population of the region.

BJP’s Nadiad MLA Pankaj Desai also has the honor of winning five consecutive elections since 1998 and serving as the leader of the party since 2010. This time he has again got the ticket from Nadiad in the center of Gujarat.

“Most of these candidates have risen from grassroots workers and their loyalty to the party has brought them to where they are today,” analyst Kashikar said.

Yogesh Patel, for example, was a BJP associate since the Jana Sangh days and in all those years he never changed his allegiances despite going through phases of struggle, he said.

The bond these candidates share with their supporters also plays an important role in giving them the invincibility factor they enjoy, he said.

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