Bypolls to fill up seven Assembly seats — spread over Saurashtra and North Gujarat — on Thursday are seen as a test for Chief Minister Narendra Modi's popularity.
Though the results are unlikely to alter the BJP's position in the House because it enjoys absolute majority, the results will be observed to see if Modi's influence is waning.
Of the seven vacant seats, six were held by Congress and one by BJP. The bypolls were necessitated due to the resignation or death of the sitting MLAs. Counting is slated for September 14.
The Congress is hoping to prove that the results show that the BJP has started losing control over urban and semi-urban electorate across the state. On the other hand, the BJP wishes to show that Modi remains unchallenged in the home ground.
The by-elections are being held in the backdrop of the trouble over the Gujarat HC lifting the state government's ban on Jaswant Singh's book on Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Also, a metropolitan court probe saying the controversial Ishrat Jahan encounter was fake has come in handy for the Congress.
In the Lok Sabha elections, Modi managed to increase the BJP tally by just one seat to bring the total to 15 whereas the Congress won 11 seats.
As a strategy, Modi stayed away from campaigning for these bypolls. “The CM decided not to campaign in the by-polls as local leaders are managing the election affairs,” a close aide of Modi said.
“The BJP has deputed ministers, party MPs, MLAs and other leaders to campaign in the by-polls for the 7 assembly segments,” state BJP president P Rupala said. Modi had taken stock of the situation in a meeting with local leaders of the respective constituencies.