Congress apart,estranged husband makes tides tough for Anandi

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Patan, Dec 15 (UNI) Pitted against old warhorse Kantilal Patel of the Congress, state Education Minister Anandiben Patel, may find the going tough as she seeks re-election from Patan.

The two leaders had also faced each other during the electoral battle for Assembly in 2002, which Anandiben had won by over 3000 votes.

Said to be a close confidante of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, Anandiben, who had entered the Assembly only in 1998 from Mandal, had moved to 'safer' Patan which has been a BJP stronghold since 1990.

A teacher by profession, she was a Rajya Sabha member, before she came into state electoral politics.

Queering the pitch for her this time is not just her Congress opponent, but also her estranged husband, Mafatlal Patel, who has been openly campaigning against her. He has addressed several rallies, blazing all guns at her and the Chief Minister. ''I regret the day she joined politics. That was what broke my home,'' he says.

Even after five years as the MLA, the outsider tag may still worry her, say political observers.

''She rarely visited Patan during this period. While Kantikaka is very rooted here,'' said Velji Soni, who campaigns for the Congress.

Local Congress leaders are optimistic after there was a huge response to their party president Sonia Gandhi's rally in the constituency. ''People want change. They are now tired of Anandiben, who is considered a nuisance.'' But the BJP camp pooh-poohs their claims, saying these numbers do not convert into votes.

The caste is not an issue here as the two main opponents--Kantilal and Anandiben--belong to same Leuva Patel group, to which Keshubhai Patel, who spearheaded a rebellion against Modi, also belongs.

With Keshubhai who has a great deal of influence on his community, upping the ante against Modi in the run-up to the elections, Anandiben has a lot to worry.

The Congress also hopes to corner the Muslim and Dalit votes, who form a sizeable chunk of the electorate.

Kantilal, who is the Municipal chairman, had been elected to the Assembly in 1985. He had contested 1990 and 1995 elections as an Independent, and was defeated by BJP's Arvind Patel. In 1998 he contested as Shankersinh Vaghela's All India Rashtriya Janata Party AlRJP candidate against Mohan Patel. He came back to the Congress fold and took on Anandiben in 2002.

Anandiben defeated him, polling 51.87 per cent of the total votes cast, while Kantilal had recieved 48.13 per cent votes.

The over 1.5 lakh electorate will choose its representative from the seven candidates, including three independents, in fray.

UNI

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