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|November 12, 1998||
Tough trio battle for Bharuch
The battle of the ballot in the Bharuch Lok Sabha byelection on November 25 will be between three strong contenders, representing the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Janata Dal.
The byelection is necessary due to the death of sitting BJP MP Chandubhai Deshmukh, who has been holding the constituency since 1989.
All-India Congress Committee treasurer Ahmed Patel, who won twice from this constituency till 1989, was humbled twice at the hustings by Deshmukh in 1989 and again in 1991 elections. In the last general election Deshmukh retained the Bharuch seat by a narrow margin of 11,609 votes, the lowest winning margin in all the 26 parliamentary seats of Gujarat, polling 2,22,981 votes.
Iqbal Kakuji Patel of the Congress, who lost to Deshmukh, is now pitted against Mansukh Patel of the BJP. Patel will have a tough time retaining the BJP seat. Iqbal Kakuji secured 2,11,372 votes in the last general elections.
The third candidate, Chhotubhai Vasawa, an MLA from Jhagadia assembly seat, is the Janata Dal candidate who has secured about 1,45,722 votes in the last general election. Another interesting factor this time is the Rashtriya Janata Party led by Shankersinh Vaghela is supporting Chhotubhai Vasawa. It had cornered about 51,000 votes in the last elections.
The BJP candidate is facing a tough time since the party has come in for a severe criticism both at the Centre and the state following a sharp rise in the prices of essential commodities and due to a deteriorating law and order situation in the state. That could affect the party's standing at the polls.
Another factor is that despite winning four times, Deshmukh had failed to carry out much development work in the constituency, political pundits said.
In the last general election also the top BJP brass identified Bharuch as the weakest constituency and consequently launched an aggressive campaign in the last few days, with Sadhvi Rithambara and Pravin Togadia of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad canvassing for their candidate.
Meanwhile, a huge rally of tribals was organised by the Adivasi Hitlakshi Samiti a few days ago in Dediapada taluka of Bharuch to protest against a complaint lodged by president of the BJP-ruled panchayat president on a leading Christian missionary of the region. There are about 20,000 Christian voters in the Bharuch parliamentary constituency.
However the Janata Dal-RJP combine received a severe setback when two Janata Dal MLAs -- Raman Chaudhary of Mangrol and Rajendra Patel of Godhra assembly constituencies -- joined the Congress two days ago and decided to campaign for Congress nominee Iqbal Kakujee Patel in the Bharuch parliamentary election.
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