The seven Lok Sabha seats of north Gujarat, divided into 49 assembly segments, are vital for the BJP. In 2002, the party won 33 of them. It needs to do even better this time, if only to offset the losses it is likely to face in Saurashtra and South Gujarat. With 182 seats being contested, some political analysts have said only a sizeable gain in the north will enable the BJP cross the 100-seat tally.
The party is using both the communal and development plank to ensure peak performance on Sunday.
In urban areas like Gandhinagar and Ahmedabad, where it has retained most of the seats in every election since 1985, the BJP certainly has the upper hand. Buoyed by overwhelming response to Narendra Modi’s rallies, it is confident of staging a superlative show again.
In the semi-urban and rural north, Mehsana and Dhandhuka are BJP’s traditional strongholds where it is expecting a clean sweep once more. Party analysts are not only hoping to retain the six Mehsana seats but also hope to snatch the single, remaining one which the Congress holds. Modi, though contesting from Maninagar in Ahmedabad, is the local boy made good, hailing from Vadnagar, 25 km from Mehsana, and he enjoys the region’s complete support.
Moreover, in the last seven years, he has brought extraordinary changes in Mehsana's infrastructure. His power reforms and the introduction of e-governance both began from here.
“We will vote for Narendrabhai’s excellent work. He’s our hero,” said Narayanbhai Rathore, a backward caste landless labourer in Mehsana.
But in the remaining areas of Patan, Sabarkantha and Banaskatha, the Congress is likely to give the BJP a tough fight. Of Patan’s seven seats, the BJP holds four, to the Congress’s three. The Congress has been on a high since Sonia Gandhi’s mammoth 1 lakh-strong rally in Patan on December 13. Two of Modi’s most trusted aides — education minister Anandiben Patel and MoS for agriculture, Dilip Thakore — are contesting from Patan’s seats, and the Congress hopes to see both of them unseated.
“It will be a great upset if we manage to defeat these two useless ministers,” said Mukul Wasnik, in charge of the Congress campaign in North Gujarat. “Patan will give us a crucial lead.”
In the two remaining — and largely tribal — districts, Banaskantha and Sabarkantha, the Congress again has an edge, with people feeling shortchanged.