The by-elections to the lone Lok Sabha seat and nine Assembly seats in Gujarat next month will be a litmus test for the leadership and acceptance of new Chief Minister Anandi Patel, who was handed over the baton by Narendra Modi after he was elected as Prime Minister.
This will be the first election to be fought under the leadership of Patel in Gujarat after she took over the reins.
All the nine Assembly seats where by-polls will be conducted on September 13, were held by BJP and vacated by sitting MLAs when they recently got elected to the Lok Sabha.
The Assembly seats where bypolls will be held are: Anand, Limkheda (Dahod), Deesa (Banaskantha), Matar (Kheda), Maninagar (Ahmedabad), Talaja (Bhavnagar), Tankara (Rajkot), Khambhalia (Jamnagar) and Mangrol (Junagadh).
The Vadodara Lok Sabha seat also fell vacant after Modi decided to retain Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh.
The Opposition Congress on the other hand is hopeful of their party’s revival in Gujarat after the exit of Modi from the political scene of the state. It has in the last couple of months aggressively taken up issues of corruption and inflation, and is hoping to turn the tables on the ruling BJP.
“This by-poll will be like a test for the acceptance of new chief minister of BJP among the people of Gujarat. The Assembly seats are generally fought under the leadership of the Chief Minister, and are considered to be stamp on their work or rejection of their work,” Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi said.
Modi had handpicked Patel pipping several other contenders for the post.
In the first few months of power, Patel has extensively spoken on the issues of women empowerment and building toilets, but she is yet to be tested on other fronts.
Under Narendra Modi, BJP has repeatedly won elections since 2001 in Gujarat, and state unit of BJP hopes that people will crown them with victory under the first woman chief minister also.
The BJP also hopes that the charisma of Modi will sail them through the election and they have planned to project Modi’s initiative taken at the state and the Central level to win polls, party leaders said.
But the Congress is of the view that local issues will be predominant in the by-poll.
“Though BJP may like to fight the election in Gujarat in the name of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, local factors will play an important role,” Doshi said.
The Congress also has nothing to lose as all the nine assembly seats were earlier held by BJP.
“We started our preparation earlier this time. We have also raised important issues like corruption highlighted by the CAG report and Central government’s inability to control prices in front of people,” Doshi said, adding that some of the seats which are going for by-polls will be favourable for them.