The BJP chief, Amit Shah, has the responsibility of overseeing the party’s campaign across the country. His campaign in Gandhinagar, from where he is contesting, is happening largely in his absence. It is being conducted by a trusted backroom team, which has been campaigning from door-to-door, carrying life-size portraits of the BJP chief.

Last week, the team even held a rally carrying the huge cut-outs. “Amit bhai is busy campaigning outside Gujarat, so we are representing him here,” Prashant Wala, the state’s media in-charge, grinned.

Since filing his nomination on March 30, Mr Shah has been in the constituency seven times – the last occasion was today, when he held a roadshow in Sanand, an area where the BJP plans to improve on its performance.

The backroom team of strategists is managed by Amit Shah’s trusted aide Harshad Patel, who runs schools in Gujarat . “He has been associated with BJP for decades. Earlier, he used to look after the campaign for PM Modi when he was the chief minister and now he is looking after Amit bhai‘s campaign,” said a BJP supporter. 

Gandhinagar, the prestigious seat in Gujarat’s new capital city, has been voting for the BJP since 1989. It was initially represented by Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the LK Advani. But this year, Mr Advani was removed as a candidate and Mr Shah fielded – much to the distress of the 91-year-old party veteran, who had objected to the manner of handling the switch.  

Critics, however, question that if Amit Shah is so sure of the party’s popularity, why he chose such a safe seat.

“He could have contested from anywhere. Why Gandhinagar?” said CJ Chavda, the Congress candidate taking on Mr Shah from Gandhinagar. Gujarat, he said, might favour Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but when it comes to Amit Shah, the voters are not so sure.

Gandhinagar comprises seven assembly seats. of which two were won by the Congress in the 2017 assembly elections. BJP sources privately admit that the party’s victory margin has been sliding. The party now wants to pull up the margin and hence they were working “overtime”.

Vejalpur is the area where party got least number of votes, as the area has a lot of Muslim votes. In 2012, the BJP won this assembly seat with a margin of 49,985 votes and in 2017, it came down to 22,567. 

“Though the odds are not in our favour, the seat still belongs to the BJP. Although in 2017, the number of winning votes came down from almost 50 per cent,” he explains.  

The party is now trying to focus on its performance in strongholds like Ghatlodiya, a Patel-majority area.  In the last assembly elections, the party won this Vidhan Sabha seat over margin of one lakh votes. 

“We have been able to touch base with every voter in this constituency over the last 15 days. That is the kind of commitment we are working with,” said Nishit Patel, one of the members of Mr Shah’s campaign team.