The Congress seems to have won the semi-finals before the great electoral battle of 2019, but there is still a crucial match to be played before the year draws to a close. The bypoll to Jasdan is slated to be held on December 20, and there would be no better way for the BJP to avenge its recent defeats in the Hindi heartland -- even if it's in a relatively minor way -- than to conquer this Congress stronghold in Gujarat.
Winning Jasdan has become a matter of prestige for the BJP, which desperately wants to prove that it still enjoys popular support. The Vijay Rupani government earlier today waived rural power bills amounting to Rs 650 crore, a decision that the Congress believes is aimed at garnering some much-needed goodwill ahead of the bypoll.
The assembly constituency of Jasdan is dominated by the Koli community. In the 2017 polls, Kunvarji Bavaliya -- a popular Koli candidate -- had contested on a Congress ticket to win with an impressive margin of 9,000 votes. This contest, however, comes with a twist in the tale.
A few months ago, Mr Bavaliya quit the Congress to join the ruling party as the state minister for water supply, animal husbandry and rural housing. However, this largesse came with a condition -- he must win Jasdan again as a BJP candidate. Although the politician's move led to some terming him as a "traitor", he does not seem overly concerned.
Neither does the BJP. "Not just Bavaliya, 13 tehsil panchayat delegates from the Congress have also crossed over to our side. We have already begun development work in Jasdan, and are focussing on development," party spokesperson Bharat Pandya told NDTV.
Mr Bavaliya is now preparing to take on Avsar Nakiya, a political debutante fielded by the Congress from the same community, even as the administration tightens security in Jasdan ahead of bypoll day. The Congress -- for its part -- is putting all its heft behind Mr Nakiya, and former chief minister Shankersinh Vaghela is campaigning on his behalf too.