Tough times ahead for BJP in Junagadh

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Junagadh, Gujarat, Dec 9: Rebel candidates and a sulking Keshubhai Patel could make Junagadh a tough proposition for the ruling BJP as the state goes to polls in the first phase on December 11 for its ten seats.

The ten constituencies are Junagadh, Visavadar-Bhesan, Mangrol, Maliya-Hatina, Somnath, Una, Kodinar, Vanthili-Manavadar, Keshod and Talala-Gir.

In the 2002 Assembly elections, BJP had won six seats while Congress bagged four.

BJP strongman Mahendra Mashroo is contesting for the fifth time as a sitting MLA. He won the 1998 and 2002 Assembly elections on BJP ticket and earlier, twice as an Independent candidate. Mr Mashroo had defeated his Congress rival by over 21,000 votes in the 2002 elections. But, this time around he would be fighting not only Congress, but also his Party rebel and political guru Markandbhai Bhatt.

Mr Mashroo, a Leuva Patel and well-known social worker, has a credible reputation. Unmarried and in early fifties, he has a formidable reputation as an incorruptible politician. His political inspiration had come in his early student days from Jayprakash Narayan which has stood him in good stead.

Mr Mashroo met Jayprakash Narayan when the latter visited Rajkot. ''When I met him I was impressed. I soon became his disciple,'' he said.

As a social worker too, he has won appreciation. Among his several activities, one is being the founder president of Sarvodaya Blood Bank. He had donated blood when he saw a poor boy in need of blood at a general hospital. ''It was my first blood donation,'' he said. This experience later led him to set up the blood bank.

He has the distinction of being the first Mayor of Junagadh Municipality when it became a corporation couple of years ago. Mr Mashroo said that he has not received enough co-operation from the Saffron brigade within the corporation with forces inimical to him not allowing to take up works, though the JMC is ruled by the BJP.

Opposition leader in the corporation is the querulous Congress strongman Giresh Kotecha, who too has made Mr Mashroo's task difficult.

Mr Mashroo's personal stock may be high as an individual, yet what worries him is the Junagadh constituency, comprising 24 villages, which is without a visible array of development, which he could attribute to himself. This to some extent would be a negative factor as he faces the electorate for the fifth time.

Opposing Mr Mashroo is Shehnaz Babi of Congress. She is from Manavdar and works as a teacher in Jetpur. The Congress was seized with dissidence during the frenzy of ticket allocation. It brought in Ms Babi in the last minute as a face-saving gesture. Ms Babi though a Muslim, is associated with Brahmkumaris.

The rebel Congressman, who is fighting against Ms Babi, is Gandubhai Khesia, who is contesting as an Independent.

Junagadh has a Muslim population of 35,000 and it remains to be seen how far the Congress can weave its secular magic to woo the large chunk of the electorate as BSP and Samajwadi Party too are eyeing the large chunk of votes. For the BSP it's Manshuk Vasram Dobria, who is contesting while, for the SP it is Brijesh Dangar.

The situation in Somnath is similar. BJP candidate Rajsibhai Jotwa is facing a combined assault of Congress and Party dissident Chunnibhai Gohil.


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