In a surprise move, the Congress has selected Babu Katara, a former BJP lawmaker with a controversial past who joined the party in 2017, as its candidate for the tribal-dominated Dahod Lok Sabha seat of Gujarat.
For the Bharuch seat, the opposition party has chosen Sher Khan Pathan, a political greenhorn who is yet to win any election in his career.
The names of both the candidates, who filed their nominations Thursday, were announced by the Congress on Wednesday night.
With this, the Congress has announced candidates for all the 26 Lok Sabha seats in Gujarat, which will go to the polls in a single phase on April 23.
Katara (58) is a two-time BJP lawmaker from Dahod (ST), a seat he won in 1999 and 2004.
In 2007, Katara was arrested at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi for allegedly trying to smuggle a woman and her teenage son to Canada on the passports of his wife and son.
Following his arrest on human trafficking charges, Mr Katara was expelled from the Lok Sabha in 2008. In subsequent years, he remained largely sidelined in Gujarat politics.
He was again in limelight ahead of the 2017 Assembly polls when he was suspended from the BJP for engaging in “anti-party” activities.
The suspension came after his son Bhavesh Katara had joined the Congress following denial of ticket by the BJP from the Jhalod Assembly seat, which is part of the Dahod Lok Sabha constituency.
Bhavesh Katara eventually won from Jhalod on a Congress ticket. After his son’s victory, Babu Katara formally joined the opposition party in 2017-end.
Babu Katara will take on sitting BJP lawmaker Jasvantsinh Bhabhor, who has been renominated by the party.
Former Congress lawmaker Prabha Taviad, who enjoys a clean image, was considered the front-runner in getting the ticket from Dahod.
But the Congress sprang a surprise by selecting Katara over Taviad, who was MP from 2009 to 2014.
For Bharuch, the Congress has fielded 38-year-old Pathan to take on five-time BJP leader Mansukh Vasava.
While Vasava has never lost an election after entering the Lok Sabha for the first time in 1998, Pathan is yet to win any poll in his political career.
Pathan, who had even lost a gram panchayat election in the past, is currently the president of the Bharuch District Youth Congress.
His father Shakur Patahn is also a Congress leader who wields clout in some tribal pockets of Bharuch such as Netrang and Jhagadia.
Notably, sitting lawmaker of Jhagadia, Chhotu Vasava, who had floated the Bharatiya Tribal Party ahead of the 2017 Assembly polls, has also jumped into the fray after the Congress and BTP failed to arrive at a seat-sharing formula.
Chhotu Vasava and Mansukh Vasava had already filed their nomination papers from Bharuch.
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