LS polls: BJP's Vadodara candidate pulls out of race

Ahmedabad: The BJP candidates from Vadodara and Sabarkantha Lok Sabha constituencies in Gujarat on Saturday expressed their unwillingness to contest the upcoming general elections citing “personal” reasons. Sitting MP Ranjan Bhatt, who was fielded by the saffron party from the Vadodara seat, announced that she was not keen on fighting the elections.

Her candidature had faced stiff resistance from some sections within the BJP.

“I, Ranjanben Dhananjay Bhatt, am unwilling to contest the Lok Sabha Elections 2024 due to my personal reasons,” Bhatt announced on X.

Soon after, the party’s Sabarkantha candidate Bhikhaji Thakor made a similar announcement.

“I, Bhikhaji Thakor, am unwilling to contest the Sabarkantha Lok Sabha 2024 election due to personal reasons,” Thakor said on Instagram.

Lok Sabha elections for all 26 seats in Gujarat will be held on May 7 and votes will be counted on June 4. The BJP had made a clean sweep in the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014 and 2019.

Bhatt’s decision comes days after banners criticising BJP’s decision to renominate her from the Vadodara Lok Sabha seat came up across the city. Some local BJP leaders had also expressed their displeasure over Bhatt’s nomination.

Bhatt had won the 2014 bye election after PM Modi vacated the seat. She was re-elected in 2019 and was announced as BJP’s candidate for the upcoming poll.

Bhatt later told reporters that she did not like the manner in which a handful of people tried to defame Vadodara, the cultural city of Gujarat.

BJP national women’s wing vice president Jyotiben Pandya had resigned from the party and all party posts after Bhatt was nominated for the third time from Vadodara. Banners had come up in Vadodara city with the message: “Modi Tujhse Bair Nahi, Ranjan Teri Khair Nahi (we don’t have a problem with PM Modi, but we will not spare Ranjan Bhatt).”

“I offered prayers and then decided that I should not contest the election. I made up my mind and posted on social media that I would not contest the election. That’s all. I am not withdrawing either due to Pandya’s statement or because of the banners,” Bhatt said.

She said that she felt she should better withdraw her candidature because of the manner in which a handful of people were defaming Vadodara.

Bhatt had polled 8,83,719 votes last time, compared to 2,94,542 votes garnered by her rival Congress candidate Prashant Patel.

The sitting MP said BJP workers and voters know that their “sister” is working with dedication. “I am ready to work even today… One does not need to become an MP to serve the public,” she said.

Bhatt said she let her decision known to the state and national leadership through social media, and whoever replaces her will win the upcoming election by a huge margin.

Thakor maintained that he was not willing to contest the elections due to personal reasons, and was not yet in a position to say anything more than what he had already stated on social media.

Ami Ravat of the opposition Congress claimed that Bhatt was forced to withdraw from the race at the direction of the BJP high command over discontent and corruption allegations she faced from within the party.

The Congress leader demanded an inquiry and action against Bhatt over the “allegations levelled against her in the posters” and claimed that the public understands that the BJP leader has not delivered.

“There was anger among the public because she did not do anything for her constituency… There is a clear perception among them that the sitting MP is corrupt, and she is developing herself while ignoring Vadodara,” Ravat told PTI.

People are aware that the ruling BJP is not working for them and this will have an impact on the polls, she claimed, asserting that the Congress will emerge victorious.

Even the then vice president of BJP’s women wing Jyoti Pandya levelled corruption allegations against Bhatt, and Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel and state BJP chief CR Paatil went on record stating that Vadodara has lagged behind in development, Ravat said.

The withdrawal of BJP candidates before the elections reflects that there is no democracy within the party which claims to be cadre-based and leaders cannot raise voices for themselves within the party, she said.

Jyoti Pandya, who had rebelled against Bhatt, said her withdrawal was a result of the collective efforts of like-minded people who thought for the best of Vadodara.

“Our voice reached Prime Minister Narendra Modi who prioritises development and this brought about changes (Bhatt’s withdrawal). I believe we have moved forward for something good with positive thinking,” Pandya told PTI.

“It is a vibrant democracy, and I was a small person to blow a small whistle…But when the idea is right, people come together and this is what happened. It was a collective effort for the best of Vadodara and we could understand one another’s philosophy and have an understanding for the development of the city,” she said.

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