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Modi opts for Ďsafeí Maninagar seat
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 19
The BJP today released its first list of 144 candidates for the Assembly elections in Gujarat, fielding Chief Minister Narendra Modi from the Maninagar seat in Ahmedabad instead of Rajkot II and dropping 12 sitting MLAs.

Former Gujarat BJP president Vajubhai Vala will contest from Rajkot-II, the seat won by Mr Modi, party spokesman Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi told newspersons here.

The list contained 82 sitting MLAs, two former MPs and three former MLAs, he said, adding that 12 sitting MLAs had been denied ticket. Ten aspirants belonging to the Scheduled Castes, 26 to the Scheduled Tribes and seven women are on the list for the December 12 poll.

Mr Naqvi said Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani and BJP President Venkaiah Naidu would campaign.

Mr Modi decided to move to Maninagar as he was not sure of his victory from there. Mr Vala, who was a Finance Minister in former Chief Minister Keshubhai Patelís government and had vacated his seat for Mr Modi, had staked his claim for the seat.

The high command had to concede Mr Valaís claim, fearing that denied ticket for Rajkot-II, he would be a potential dissident, jeopardising Mr Modiís chances. Mr Naidu had been authorised to clear the remaining 38 seats and accordingly an informal meeting was held at Mr Naiduís residence.

While Mr Keshubhai Patel appears to have an upper hand in todayís released list, 11 seats from the Saurashtra region, which is the former Chief Ministerís stronghold, have still to be decided.

Mr Patelís own Assembly seat of Vishavadar has not been announced as he has shown a keen interest to contest from there.

Mr Modi, during the meeting yesterday at the Prime Ministerís residence, proposed that Mr Patelís son Bharat Patel might be given the seat but the former Chief Minister was said to have taken an exception to it. In Mr Advaniís Gandhinagar parliamentary constituency, only one seat has been declared which has gone to Mr Vadibhai Patel who is a minister in Modi government.

He said the detailed programme of these leaders would be chalked out by the BJPís election campaign committee.

The list includes 82 sitting MLAs, two former MPs, three former MLAs, 10 candidates from the Scheduled Castes and 26 from the Scheduled Tribes, besides seven women.

The party has fielded a Schedule Tribe woman, Mr Ramilaben Bara from the Khedbhramha constituency where she would be contesting against former state Chief Minister Amarsinh Choudhary.

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