This Article is From Jun 02, 2013

High stakes for the Congress in Gujarat by-polls

High stakes for the Congress in Gujarat by-polls
Gandhinagar: It's a big day for the Congress in Gujarat -- four assembly and two Lok Sabha seats, so far held by the party, voted for their new representatives.

Among them is the Lok Sabha constituency of Porbandar, where Vittalbhai Radadiya is the BJP's candidate.  He exited the Congress to join the ruling party in March, nearly five months after he was caught on security camera pulling a gun on an attendant at a toll booth who asked the politician to pay the required toll.

The 55-year-old Mr Radadiya was welcomed into the BJP at a public function by Chief Minister Narendra Modi.  When asked about why the party made room for Mr Radadiya despite the controversy at the toll booth and the criminal charges that followed, Jai Narayan Vyas of the Gujarat BJP says it is merely a home-coming for Mr Radadiya, who was in the party once upon a time.

Mr Radadiya's son, Jayesh, who also moved to the BJP with his father, is contesting the Assembly seat from Jetpur in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat. The Chief Minister had said Mr Radadiya, along with son Jayesh, will strengthen the BJP in the state.

The results of today's by-elections will be declared on Wednesday.   A strong  showing by the BJP will be leveraged by the Chief Minister's supporters as further evidence that Mr Modi deserves to be named the BJP's presumptive Prime Minister ahead of the national election.

Though his popularity was reaffirmed by an emphatic victory in the Gujarat elections in December, the third in a row, Mr Modi remains a divisive figure on account of the riots in his state in 2002, in which more than 1,000 people were killed, most of them Muslims.

A crucial ally of the BJP, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, has threatened to end his partnership with the party if it declares Mr Modi as its prime ministerial candidate.  And within the BJP, there are other senior leaders who aspire to a shot at the country's top job and are therefore opposed to declaring him the party's choice for Prime Minster before India votes.