As he completes a year into power, chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat would soon be put through a political test that may or may not be referendum on his government but would surely gauge the ruling party’s popularity after its landslide win in the 2017 assembly election. The death of BJP veteran Magan Lal Shah, the sitting MLA from Tharali, has necessitated a bypoll to the reserved seat. Shah, who died Sunday, was the party’s Dalit face in Garhwal. As per the constitutional provisions, it is mandatory to hold bypoll to an assembly seat within six months from the date when it falls vacant. The officials at the office of the chief electoral officer said the Tharali bypoll could be held along with the Karnataka assembly elections to be held later this year. There was also a possibility of it being held separately.The BJP government in the state completes its one year on March 18. So, if the bypoll is held next month or even a bit later “then it will be a kind of referendum on chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat’s performance,” says Prof M M Semwal of HNB Garhwal (central) University. The bypoll would also “give some insight” into the people’s mood whether the BJP would repeat its 2014 Lok Sabha polls performance, when it has won all the five seats, in 2019. Last year’s assembly polls too witnessed a one-sided contest with the BJP winning 57 of the total 70 seats. Congress could win only 11.If the BJP opts to field a member of Shah’s family, it may garner sympathy votes. “In that case, the result won’t help us gauge the people’s real mood in terms of their reaction to the BJP government’s performance in the past about one year,” says Prof M C Sati of HNB Garhwal (Central (University). “Nor will it tell us where the ruling party stands in terms of popularity.”Poll strategists in the BJP feel that party might field Shah’s wife from Tharali to cash in on the sympathy factor. Munni Devi is no greenhorn in politics. She heads the Chamoli District Panchayat and has also been “actively associated” with social issues. Shah’s son Ganesh would be the BJP’s second priority in case Munni Devi is unwilling to contest the bypoll, according to those familiar with party affairs.However, Tharali being a BJP bastion also goes in the party’s favour. Barring one term, the saffron party has been winning the assembly seat since the state witnessed its maiden assembly election in 2002. Congress’ Jeet Ram won the seat in 2012 defeating Shah by about 700 votes. Shah avenged the defeat in 2017 winning the seat by a margin of 4,500 votes.BJP state chief Ajay Bhatt, however, said it was too early to prepare the strategy for the bypoll. “We are not in that frame of mind as we’ve just lost our comrade,” Bhatt said.