**Gandhinagar/New Delhi: ** The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Friday announced its first list of 70 candidates for the first phase of the Gujarat assembly elections, giving tickets to five of the 14 defecting Congress MLAs.
Staying ahead of the opposition party in making the announcement, the BJP has repeated 49 sitting MLAs from their respective constituencies.
This runs contrary to speculations that many sitting BJP MLAs will be denied tickets this time.
Five Congress MLAs who changed over to the BJP in August — Raghavjibhai Patel, Dharmendrasinh Jadeja, Ramsinh Parmar, Mansinh Chauhan, and C.K. Raulji — have been given tickets from their constituencies.
These Congress rebels had supported the BJP against Congress heavyweight leader Ahmed Patel in the Rajya Sabha election.
Chief Minister Vijay Rupani has been re-nominated from his traditional Rajkot West constituency, Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel from traditional Mehsana seat, and state BJP chief Jitubhai Vaghani from Bhavnagar West. Earlier, Vaghani had refused to contest.
Surprisingly, contrary to speculations, both Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti members Varun Patel and Reshma Patel are not in the first list.
Two BJP MLAs — Varshaben Doshi from Vadhwan and Nalin Kotadia from Dhari — have been dropped and Dhanjibhai Patel and Dileep Sanghani nominated from Vadhwan and Dhari, respectively.
On Thursday afternoon, BJP President Amit Shah had summoned party leaders at the state BJP headquarters in Gandhinagar for a meeting, which continued till late night.
The meeting was attended by Vaghani, Deputy Chief Minister Patel, state Home Minister Pradeepsinh Jadeja and party leader Bhikhubhai Dalsania.
On Friday morning, the BJP chief met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other senior party leaders in Delhi as well as senior Gujarat leaders before announcing the first list.
The first phase of Gujarat assembly elections for 89 seats will be held on December 9 and for the remaining 93 on December 14. The results will be announced along with that of Himachal Pradesh assembly on December 18.