With most of Congress’s senior leaders biting the dust in the Gujarat assembly elections, Paresh Dhanani, who was elected as MLA for the third time, is seen as the front-runner for the post of Congress Legislature Party (CLP) in Gujarat. A couple of other MLAs are seen as Dhanani’s contenders but he is clearly ahead in the race.Dhanani is a Patidar, a community which strongly supported the Congress in the rural belt. What tilts the scale in his favour is that he comes from Saurashtra, a region where Congress nearly doubled its tally from 16 to 30. In fact, in Dhanani’s hometown Amreli, the Congress won all five seats. The firebrand leader is perceived to be close to newly elected Congress president Rahul Gandhi. “Paresh Dhanani’s appointment as CLP leader would be a good move to woo Patidars ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. He is also quite vocal and that would help in cornering the government during the assembly proceedings,” said party officials.Dhanani is seen as a giant killer, having defeated senior BJP leaders in each of his election victories. In 2002, he had defeated Parshottam Rupala, in 2012 Dileep Sanghani, and Bavku Undhad in the latest elections.Another potential contender as CLP leader is senior leader Mohansinh Rathwa, who was elected to the state assembly for a record 10th time. Rathwa was appointed leader of opposition after Shankersinh Vaghela quit the Congress in August. His elevation could be seen as an attempt to reach out to tribals, a community where the party’s support base has steadily eroded over the years.Shailesh Parmar, who was elected as MLA from Danilimda (SC) seat in Ahmedabad for the third straight time, is also seen as a potential contender as CLP leader. Parmar was appointed as the Congress’s chief whip in the assembly after Balvantsinh Rajput’s exit from the party in July.
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