PRESSURE ON ANANDIBEN TO DO A MODI?

A decisive victory in the ensuing elections is a must for the Gujarat  Chief Minister who has still to prove that she is a worthy successor

Gandhinagar : Soaked to the bones by weeklong heavy rains, Gujarat goes to vote in the by-elections to nine Vidhan Sabha and one Lok Sabha seat on Saturday, campaigning dampened and national leaders on either side choosing to remain aloof.

As it happens to be the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the polls have acquired curiosity value to see how his successor Anandiben Patel (Pictured) fares in the first major test she faces. Modi clobbered the Congress out of shape in three successive Vidhan Sabha elections in Gujarat and then swept it off the national political shelf to usher in the first BJP majority government in history. How things shape up in his absence from Gujarat is what most want to see.

Already in the dumps in Gujarat, things cannot get any worse for the Congress. By the same yardstick, even a minor gain will revive their sagging spirits. For the ruling BJP, it is important, for the continuity and stature of Modi’s chosen successor in the state hinges on it. The outcome of the by-elections in Gujarat will not materially alter the situation in any manner, only that it will be the first major Vidhan Sabha engagement between the two traditional political rivals after Anandiben Patel took over as chief minister, and therefore its importance.

The names of candidates announced by both sides hardly carry any personality who will stir up the poll pot. The bulk of the seats fell vacant as the BJP had fielded nine sitting legislators, including Chief Minister Narendra Modi for the Lok Sabha elections.

All nine won, as the BJP swept all the 26 Lok Sabha seats from Gujarat, leaving the Congress totally bankrupt of representation. Modi, who had contested the Lok Sabha polls, both from Vadodara and Varanasi, vacated the former seat, thereby causing a Lok Sabha by-election.

Ranjanben Bhatt, the deputy mayor of the Vadodara municipal corporation is the BJP candidate for this solitary LS seat. She will face Narendra Ravat, the president of the city Congress. Ravat had initially been selected through the primaries as the party nominee, but was replaced by Madhusudan Mistry, the Congress general secretary, after Modi decided to contest from Vadodara. Modi trounced Mistry by a record margin of 5,70,000 votes in the 2014 general elections.

Though there are no big names in the fray from both sides, the Congress has a line-up of top names who suffered humiliating defeats in the 2014 general elections.

R K MISRA

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