Bharatiya Janata Party National President Amit Shah, a member of the Rajya Sabha, is making his Lok Sabha election debut from a seat held by veteran party leader LK Advani since 1991, barring a two-year period. But since the party made a decision not to field candidates above the age of 75 this year, 91-year-old Advani was eased out of his Gandhinagar seat.

Shah is pitted against Congress’ CJ Chavda, who represents the Gandhinagar North seat in the Assembly.

The caste equations

Gandhinagar constituency is dominated by Patidars and Thakors. There is significant anti-BJP sentiment in the Patidar community. The contest here is also interesting because of the friction between Shah and another veteran BJP leader, former Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel.

The constituency’s Ghatlodiya and Sabarmati segements are traditional strongholds of Patidar voters, and the Anandiben Patel camp has a tight hold over the region. The constituency also includes the Vejalpur Assembly segment, which has a large number of Muslim and Dalit voters. The Sanand Assembly segment, also a part of this seat, was the epicentre of farmer protests in the state in 2017.

Congress candidate Chavda belongs to the Thakor community that has supported the Congress. The party also expects the Patidars to have supported it, though that did not happen in the 2017 Assembly elections.

The BJP, however, has claimed that caste will not be a factor in Gandhinagar. “People know that the party can provide development and security,” BJP spokesperson Bharat Pandya had said. “[The] Congress had lost the polls on this seat even before they put a candidate. Whoever they would have put BJP was sure to win here.”

But Chavda believes that the fight is between the Congress and the BJP, and not Amit Shah and him. “If he is the national president of the BJP, then why did he choose the so-called safe seat in Gujarat?” Chavda asked. “He could have contested from a challenging seat.”