"Not Even In My Dreams": BJP's Youngest Candidate In Gujarat Gets Vadodara Ticket

Hemang Joshi said he has large shoes to fill considering that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had won from Vadodara.

'Not Even In My Dreams': BJP's Youngest Candidate In Gujarat Gets Vadodara Ticket

At 33, Hemang Joshi is the BJP's youngest candidate in Gujarat, which elects 26 MPs.


When sitting MP Ranjan Bhatt unexpectedly pulled out of the race despite being renominated by the BJP for the Vadodara Lok Sabha seat in Gujarat, Hemang Joshi was blissfully unaware of what would unfold next.

Mr Joshi and his wife were attending a musical programme on Holi when he was flooded with congratulatory calls. That's when Mr Joshi learnt the BJP had picked him as its candidate for the Vadodara seat.

At 33, Mr Joshi is the BJP's youngest candidate in Gujarat, which elects 26 MPs.

Mr Joshi said he has large shoes to fill considering that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had won from Vadodara, an erstwhile princely state known for its rich cultural heritage and industrial development, in 2014 before vacating it for Varanasi.

In an interview with news agency PTI, the young BJP leader said he is striving to win by a margin of over 10 lakh votes, a target set by their state chief C R Paatil. All the seats in the state will go to polls in the third phase on May 7.

"I had not even dreamt of getting the ticket. It came as a matter of immense surprise to me," he said.

While the target for the victory margin in other seats is 5 lakh votes, Paatil has kept it at 10 lakh in Vadodara, said Mr Joshi, who figured in a list of India's 40 young leaders under 40 prepared by media platform Fox Story India.

Mr Bhatt had won the Vadodara bypoll in 2014 after PM Modi gave up the seat. She won from here in 2019 and was gearing up for a third term when an internal rebellion in the local BJP unit dashed her hopes. Last month, she announced her unwillingness to fight the polls.

A day later, Mr Joshi, a former student leader, was picked for the job.

"Until my name was officially announced, I did not even get a phone call that I was being considered as the party candidate. My wife and I are working people, and we get little time to go out together. We were out to attend a musical programme at Sursagar lake in the city on Holi after offering prayers when my name was announced," he recalled.

But as soon as his name became official, he received several calls from the party's state and national leadership offering him support.

"To give a person like me an opportunity to contest such a big election, and to offer all kinds of support for the same is overwhelming for me," he said.

Mr Joshi said he is also banking on the support of the constituency's young voters.

"The region has emerged as the education capital of Gujarat. We have MS University, Central University, Sports University, Gati Shakti University and several top-ranking educational institutes with more than two lakh students. Here 30-35 per cent of voters are young whom we are trying to tap," he said.

He said he represented the Modi government's efforts to mobilise the country's young population to make India a developed nation by 2047.

When PM Modi launched 'sankalp patra' (manifesto), he said it is a reflection of the aspirations and expectations of the country's youth, Mr Joshi pointed out.

"The sankalp patra has many points that will touch us even a century from now. Of the four key points - Garib, Yuva, Annadata and Nari (GYAN) - Yuva (youth) play a big role. PM Modi says a lot of what we aspire to achieve depends on the youth," he said.

Asked if their victory margin target of 10 lakh votes was ambitious, Mr Joshi said Vadodara has traditionally been a BJP stronghold.

"People cutting across class and caste lines have liked the BJP. Vadodara has also served as PM Modi's karmabhumi. So here we do not need to campaign for the party but to relive and rejuvenate the people's existing connection with the party," he said.

Mr Joshi, the vice chairman of the municipal primary school board, was once the general secretary of the students' union of Maharaja Sayajirao University as a member of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the student wing of the RSS.

He said he has done a course on leadership in education from IIM Ahmedabad and is now pursuing a PhD in leadership. His wife is an assistant professor in a medical college.

"When PM Modi said he was a pradhan sevak and not a pradhan mantri, it struck me that the primary role of a leader is to serve and not to lead. I am doing a PhD on 'Servant Leadership' with a primary focus on a leader to serve and not lead," he said.

BJP has never lost a Lok Sabha election in Vadodara since 1998. The constituency has elected three women MPs since 1991.

Mr Joshi is pitted against Congress' Jaspalsinh Padhiyar, a former MLA from Padra.

"Congress' mentality is not acceptable to the people of Vadodara. When they rejected the invitation for Ram Mandir, the party committed 'praja droh'," he said.

Calling sitting MP Bhatt a very cultured party worker, Mr Joshi said she continues to guide him.

On the intra-party friction, he said sentiments make people impulsive at times.

"But this is the election for Narendra Modi. People are not voting for Hemang Joshi but for Narendra Modi to become the prime minister for a third term," Mr Joshi added.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)