To continue its winning streak in Gujarat and retain power in the recently concluded state Assembly elections for a fifth consecutive time, the BJP will have to clinch four major cities —Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Surat. Of the 37 seats across these cities, in the 2012 polls, BJP had won 34 seats. However, if the Congress is able to make inroads in these cities, it can upset BJP’s apple-cart.In Ahmedabad, traditionally, whichever party has taken the lead has gone on to form the government. In 1985, when Congress had last formed the government in Gujarat, it had won 10 of the 12 seats in Ahmedabad. At the time, Ashok Bhatt of BJP had won Khadia while Babubhai Vasanwala for Janata Party had won Ellis Bridge and the rest had been taken by Congress. Since then, Congress has never taken the city, nor state. In the 1990 polls, it bagged only two Muslim-dominated seats of Shaher Kotda and Jamalpur. Narhari Amin and Babubhai Vasanwala from Janta Dal won the Sabarmati and Ellisbridge seats respectively, while BJP bagged the rest. Ultimately, the Chimanbhai Patel-led Janata Dal won 70, while BJP won 67 seats and a JD-BJP coalition government was formed. However, since then, it has been BJP all the way, with Congress winning only the Muslim-dominated seats. It the outgoing Assembly, it only had two MLAs from the city.Now, poll watchers say that the Congress can add about two seats to its existing tally of two seats. The party though feels that it has a legitimate shot in six constituencies, mainly because of the Patidar agitation. Local factors like relative strength of candidates, demonetization and GST will also play a role. Party spokesman Kailash Gadhvi sees Congress victory in Danilimda, Jamalpur-Khadia, Shahpur, Thakkarbapanagar, Nicol and Vejalpur. “Demonetization and GST has hurt small businessmen and masses. Urban areas suffer from high cost of education and health services. There is high degree of joblessness affecting the youth. All these factors are now in our favour,” Gadhvi told DNA.Meanwhile in Surat, also a BJP bastion, the party currently holds all the seats. Economic slowdown aggravated by demonetization and GST has put a spanner in its loyal votebank of small traders and manufacturers. When GST was implemented, the city was at the forefront in its opposition in June and July this year. At the time, the party had to send a central team of tax officials to placate the businessmen. In the run up to the voting, Union ministers Arun Jaitley, Smriti Irani, Nirmala Sitharaman and Purushottam Rupala began an outreach to meet local leaders. Therefore, poll watchers feel the Congress might be able to spring a surprise in Varachha Road, Kamrej and Surat – North.Additionally, though BJP had won all the six city seats in Vadodara in 2012, the Congress is optimistic about winning there. In Rajkot, the BJP holds two of the three seats, but Congress just might flip the equation and gain a lead this year.

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Gujarat elections 2017: Stakes high in Guj’s top 4 cities