New Delhi: The BJP today released its first list of 70 candidates for next month's Gujarat Assembly elections, which includes Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel and state party chief Jitu Vaghani.
Of the 70 candidates, 18 are Patels, 16 OBCs, three SCs and 11 STs, party sources said.
Elections for the 182-member Gujarat Assembly will be held over two phases on December 9 and 14.
The list of candidates was finalised by the BJP's Central Election Committee, which met in Delhi on Wednesday.
The meeting, chaired by BJP president Amit Shah, was attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj.
While the list retains 49 sitting MLAs, three legislators have been dropped. The party has accommodated five former Congress legislators, who had switched over to the BJP earlier this year, in its first list.
Mr Rupani will seek re-election from Rajkot West, Mr Patel from Mehsana and Mr Vaghani from Bhavnagar (West). Apart from Mr Rupani and Mr Patel, 15 of 25 ministers have also made it to the list.
Former IPS officer PC Baranda, who resigned this week from the police service, has been given the ticket for Bhiloda (ST) seat.
The party has also fielded 16 OBC candidates.
The OBCs had launched a counter agitation in the state against inclusion of Patels in the OBC category.
A Patel community outfit led by Hardik Patel has been vociferously demanding reservation for the Patidar community.
Hardik Patel has made overtures to the Congress after taking an aggressive stand against the ruling BJP.
The five former Congress MLAs, who secured a BJP ticket, are Raghavji Patel in Jamangar (rural), Dharmendrasinh Jadeja from Jamangar (north), CK Raulji from Godhra, Mansinh Chauhan from Balasinor and Ramsinh Parmar from Thasra.
They had cross voted against Congress heavyweight Ahmed Patel in a keenly fought Rajya Sabha election a few months back, and joined the BJP later.
However, Bholabhai Gohel, another former Congress MLA who joined the BJP after cross-voting in the upper house election, failed to make it to the ruling party list.
Instead, the party has given a ticket to its own nominee Bharatbhai Boghra in Jasdan, which was won by Mr Gohel in 2012.
The party dropped three of its sitting MLAs while changed the seat of one.
The sitting MLAs, who failed to get renominated, are Bhavna Makwana from Mahuva, Varsha Doshi of Vadhvan and Nalin Kotadia from Dhari.
Bavku Undhad, sitting MLA from Lathi, has been moved to Amreli.
The party has fielded its former Amreli MP Dilip Sanghani from Dhari assembly seat.
"According to the list declared by our Central BJP, our 49 sitting MLAs have been given tickets, while one independent candidate who had won in 2012, has also been fielded," Mr Patel said.
"Our list has four women candidates. It tries to give proper representation to all castes and communities of the state," Mr Patel said.
He added that the second list of candidates will be declared soon.
The elections have become a prestige battle for the BJP, which has been in power for over two decades in the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party chief Amit Shah.
Political activity in the state has already gained momentum with Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi and top BJP leaders hitting campaign trail.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)