The opposition Congress is likely to field most of its sitting MLAs in the high-stakes Gujarat Assembly polls, a senior leader said on Tuesday and used a cricket match analogy to describe the electoral contest as the "last and final over" for the party.
He said Congress will take into confidence those MLAs who are required to be replaced with new candidates.
"I take this as my responsibility to ensure that all the candidates who have raised the voice of the people of Gujarat in the Legislative Assembly with me and highlighted their plight are repeated as candidates and get tickets to contest the elections," Leader of Opposition Sukhram Rathava told reporters.
After winning 77 seats in the 2017 Assembly polls and restricting the BJP to 99, the Congress saw 14 of its MLAs exit the party, leaving it with 63 legislators in the 182-member House.
Many MLAs among the 14 joined the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and some of them went on to win by-elections as BJP candidates.
Rathava said MLAs will be consulted if the party wants to replace them with other candidates for the elections, due in December this year.
He said teams of state Congress and the All India Congress Committee (AICC) are conducting separate surveys to identify the candidates for the upcoming polls.
"If according to the survey any MLA is required to be removed, he will be taken into confidence before any such decision is taken. For us, the 2022 election is like the last and final over (as in the game of cricket)," he said.
On August 24, AICC leaders held a meeting with Gujarat brass to discuss upcoming elections.
Senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is scheduled to launch the poll campaign in Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, on September 5. The party has also begun the process to select candidates and will release the first list before September 15, senior leaders had said.
The latest exit from Congress was of tribal leader and Khedbrahma MLA Ashwin Kotwal, who joined the BJP on May 3.
In the traditional bipolar politics of Gujarat, the Congress is now jostling to guard the opposition place amid the aggressive campaigning by Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
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