Gujarat's new Chief Minister Anandiben Patel will face her first major political test when nine assembly and one Lok Sabha seats see by-elections Saturday.The Vadodara Lok Sabha seat was vacated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi after he was elected to the parliament from two places including Varanasi, and the then Gujarat chief minister chose to retain the latter.Although analysts say that the "Modi Magic" still prevails, Patel -- who succeeded Modi in Gandhinagar -- will have to ensure a sweeping victory for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to silence her critics in the party.
In Vadodara, the BJP has fielded Deputy Mayor Ranajan Bhatt while the Congress candidate is Narendra Rawat. The BJP has been winning in Vadodara since 1987.Modi trounced Congress veteran Madhusudan Mistry in Vadodara in May. The nine assembly seats where elections are to be held are Deesa, Maninagar (vacated by Modi), Tankara, Khambhalia, Mangrol, Talaja, Anand, Matar and Limkheda. The last seat is reserved for tribals. The nine seats were given up by BJP legislators after they were elected to the Lok Sabha. The Congress, the main opposition party, remains a demoralized force after the BJP picked up all 26 parliamentary seats this time.
Chief Minister Patel launched the 'Lok Samvad Setu' programme in Matar constituency in central Gujarat, a traditional pro-Congress area. She also launched the programme in all seats where elections are scheduled.She has also constituted a team of observers that includes a senior minister, a senior party leader and a senior woman leader for each seat. BJP national leaders such as Gujarat in-charge Om Mathur, Thavarchand Ghelot and Rajiv Pratap Rudy are camping in the state. It is obvious that Patel is leaving nothing to chance as the elections are a prestige issue for her.The Gujarat Congress finally initiated some action last week when it launched new outfits like 'Jan Sangharsh Sena' and 'U-Army' to woo youths and those unhappy with the BJP. But party stalwarts like former central ministers Dinsha Patel, Bharatsinh Solanki and Tushar Chuadhary declined to contest the assembly elections.Vadodara has, however, been ravaged by heavy floods. Chief Election Officer Anita Karwal took stock of the situation in the flood-hit areas. The votes will be counted Sep 16.