After party worker protests, BJP candidates from Vadodara, Sabarkantha opt out of electoral race

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After protests from local party workers, two BJP candidates — Vadodara MP Ranjanben Bhatt and Sabarkantha’s debutant candidate Bhikhaji Thakor — have opted out from the electoral race, citing “personal reasons”.

Their names were cleared by the BJP in the first list of candidates. On Saturday, they both announced on social media that they were unwilling to contest the Lok Sabha elections from their respective constituencies. According to party sources, there had been protests by local party workers against their candidacies.

Ms. Bhatt was being repeated by the party for the third time from Vadodara. She was first fielded in a bypoll in 2014 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi resigned as Vadodara MP after also winning the Varanasi seat in the 2014 Lok Sabha election. This time, however, after her ticket was announced by the party, a section of local workers was upset, and put up posters in several parts of the city, apart from taking to social media to vent their anger and frustration at the sitting parliamentarian.

“I have decided to opt out after some people tried to defame the party and Vadodara,” Ms. Bhatt told media persons after her announcement on social media.

‘Poor performance’

“There was widespread anger against her from the local workers and cadres,” a BJP leader from Vadodara said.

A senior leader and former mayor of Vadodara Jyoti Pandya was even suspended as the vice president of the BJP’s national women wing. After she was suspended, Ms. Pandya had also criticised the party for repeating Ms. Bhatt for the third time from Vadodara.

A few days ago, a BJP MLA Ketan Inamdar, from the Vadodara district, had also “resigned”, reportedly because of the party’s decision to field Ms. Bhatt for the third time. However, after meeting with the State party chief C.R. Paatil, he had withdrawn the resignation.

According to party insiders, Mr. Inamdar was upset that Ms. Bhatt was fielded by the party despite her poor performance as a two-time parliamentarian from Vadodara. “She did not remain connected with local workers and her behaviour towards local functionaries of the BJP and legislators was not good,” a party leader said.

Caste credentials

In the case of Sabarkantha, party sources said that Mr Thakor’s selection as a fresh candidate replacing a sitting MP did not go down well with local party workers in this other backward class (OBC) dominated seat. In fact, a section of local leaders even questioned his caste credentials, contending that he was a tribal who had changed his caste to Thakor to contest the poll in this Thakor-dominated seat.

“I have certain social works, so I have decided to focus on that instead of fighting the Lok Sabha polls,” Mr. Thakor said, after he posted on social media that he was not willing to contest the election. Mr. Thakor is a general secretary of the party in the Sabarkantha district and is also associated with several cooperative institutions in the district.

There has not been any statement or reaction from the State BJP so far on the announcements of the two candidates, made on their personal social media accounts. However, party leaders have said that new candidates will be announced for both seats by the party high command, which suggests that the sudden announcement of the two candidates may not have been a unilateral move.

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