RAJKOT: Rajkot West is the epicentre of the Gujarat Assembly elections, representing the challenges being faced by the Bharatiya Janata Party this time around. Struggling to hold the seat is state Chief Minister Vijay Rupani who is being given a tough fight by Congress party’s Indranil Rajguru.

Rajkot West is perhaps the safest seat in Gujarat for the BJP, being with the party since 1984. Now Kerala Governor Vajubhai Vala won from here seven times in a row, vacating it once in the middle for Narendra Modi in 2001. Rajguru now insists that he will win back the seat, with the challenge for the CM in this financial hub of Saurashtra growing by the day.

BJP local leaders admitted that the fight is intense, and Rupani is facing a challenge from the Congress candidate. The CM finds himself ranged against strong anti-incumbency, bending under the pressure of GST, demonetisation, unemployment. In fact, all over Gujarat he is being blamed for the current mess with a section of voters not very keen to hold their ‘favourite’ Prime Minister Narendra Modi accountable. The result is that Rupani is struggling to win his home constituency.

On the other side is Rajguru who also has the money and the aggression of a formidable opponent. He is giving a good fight with the Congress visible in this constituency after 1984. Both candidates are further fired by the premise that who ever wins from here will be the CM of Gujarat. Rupani remains the BJP candidate for the post, but the Congress has still not announced its candidate. Rajguru has established a good equation with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and could be a top contender for CM if the party wins the elections.

Rupani who has started some mega projects is harping on these, maintaining that if the Congress party comes to power all the irrigation and development projects will be placed on the back burner. Rajguru, on the other hand, insists that he will turn Rajkot around insisting that the Congress party has a big development plan for the state, and its specific communities.

The Congress is visibly ahead in rural Saurashtra and hopes to make a dent in the urban areas to get itself into the winning bracket. The BJP is on the defensive, and in recent days has started playing the communal card heavily on the social media. The Patel factor continues to dominate this region as well, with Hardik Patel holding successful rallies all across. It remains, however, to be seen whether the Patidars follow through for the Congress or shift back to the BJP at the time of polling.

Mixed reports confound the situation, but it is very clear that the Congress is in the running. And will increase its tally in the state. The BJP is having to fight for almost every seat, with this election being no walkover for the party. Rupani insists that the BJP will increase its footprint in the state with Modi as the Prime Minister, more so than when he was CM. BJP President Amit Shah who has hardly moved out of Gujarat, has promised the party 150 seats.

(Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani Vs Congress candidate Indranil Rajguru)