New Delhi: Voting for by-election to the Jasdan assembly constituency is being held today where eight candidates are in fray to contest the polls.
The main fight is between Kunvarji Bavalia and Avsar Nakia. Jasdan is Congress’ stronghold where PM Modi had addressed a public rally during 2017 assembly elections even though Bavalia won from this seat on Congress ticket by a margin of of nearly 10,000 votes.
BJP’s toughest electoral challenges in Gujarat
Last year, the BJP faced one of its toughest electoral challenges in Gujarat in the last two decades, and lost ground to the Congress in Saurasthra. Bavaliya is seen as a strongman of the dominant Koli community, in an area where farm distress and unemployment helped the Congress party win 79 seats in the 2017 state assembly elections, up from 61 in 2012.
“The Kolis have a strong base in Saurashtra and their votes are crucial in as many as five seats of Saurashtra where they hold over 30% vote share. In Gujarat the population of Kolis is about 20%. With unrest among some Patels, it was part of (BJP president) Amit Shah’s strategy to place a strong Koli candidate in Saurashtra region even if it meant giving a cabinet-level post in exchange,” said Amit Dholakia, professor of political science at Maharaja Sayajirao University in Vadodara.
“This led to some dissent among many senior BJP MLAs who felt they were being left out. An upset at Jasdan could lead to a loss of face for the BJP and Shah.”
Jasdan seat close to CM Vijay Rupani’s Rajkot constituency
Dholakia added that the party will have to re-work its strategy in case of a loss, but that will not be easy given that the Jasdan seat is close to CM Vijay Rupani’s Rajkot constituency.
The bypoll in Gujarat—the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Shah—comes close on the heels of the BJP’s dismal performances in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, where it lost to the Congress. Other than Rajasthan, Gujarat was the only other state where the BJP had won all the Lok Sabha seats in 2014.