Vadodara: After scaling a pole in BJP`s stronghold, Congress candidate Madhusudan Mistry will be looking for a `poll vault` to trump the formidable BJP`s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi in this industrial city which votes on April 30.
Labelled as a `no-contest` by BJP, the duel between Modi and Mistry is marked by stunts and personal attacks by the Congress leader while the saffron party`s pin-up hero is busy touring the nation and has not come after filing his nomination in Vadodara, where the party has never lost in 16 years.
BJP workers have pulled up their socks so that their most popular leader is elected with the highest margin than any other candidate contesting 2014 polls. The city is strewn with posters, banners and billboards, hailing Modi and his vision for India.
Defending Modi`s physical absence so far in the city, BJP says there is no need for the leader to campaign here when he is busy canvassing in other parts of the country.
In the 2012 Assembly Elections also, BJP won six out of seven Assembly segments in this area. The Independent candidate, who won the seventh seat, has also joined BJP now.
On the other hand, 67-year-old Mistry is banking on massive mass contact programmes to turn the tables around.
With over 15 lakh electorate in the Vadodara seat, both BJP and Congress are making all efforts to woo voters.
Modi has chosen this seat over any other constituency of the state like Ahmedabad East from where he could have easily won, to maximise his margin of win, BJP party leaders said.
Congress had earlier given ticket to local leader Narendra Rawat. However, after BJP fielded Modi from here, Congress changed the contestant by fielding Mistry, who had steered the party to victory in states like Karnataka.
For Congress, the odds are stacked against them, but that hasn`t stopped it from putting its best foot forward.
From climbing a pole for pasting his poster on the ones portraying Modi, to flaying the BJP leader on `hiding` his marital status for so long, old warhorse Mistry is leaving no stone unturned.
Congress is campaigning hard when Modi is missing on the streets of Vadodara. Modi, who represents the state Legislative Assembly from Maninagar area in Ahmedabad, will also be fighting from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh.
"There seems to be a some kind of notion that BJP will get votes in the name of Modi, but we have a different strategy. Voters are the rulers of this country and we must approach them," Mistry said.
BJP leader Harsad Patel attempts to play down Mistry`s remarks by saying it is not important who is fighting against Modi, indicating a sure-shot win for Gujarat Chief Minister from this party stronghold.
"Our campaign is going on in a full swing as party is approaching voters in various ways like door to door campaign, society meetings, meeting with different group of voters, through posters and advertisement," Vadodara city BJP president Bharat Danger said.
"Vadodara will reject the candidate who climbs up a pole and tears posters of Modi....Someone who speaks bad about woman. With the change of candidate (in Congress), it is good for BJP as we think that we will get more votes," Danger claimed.
Of the other six candidates in fray, AAP has given ticket to a local candidate Sunil Kulkarni.
Interestingly, an Independent candidate Narendra Babulal Modi, who was also in the fray, has withdrawn his nomination.
Congress is banking on its traditional vote bank of Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribes and minorities.
In a bid to grab voters` mind-share, Congress leader Pragnesh Tewar said, "We have divided our campaign in three phases, first we will organise our road shows and late night meetings in the all the seven Assembly segments.
"Then we will go to every ward and village of this constituency and in the third phase we will reach up to society level."
After a gruelling day-long campaign, a visibly tired Mistry is heard giving a pep talk to his party workers. "There is a saying in Gujarati, nishan chuk maf, pan nichu nishan maf nahin (it can be forgiven if you miss the target, but it will not be forgiven if you set a low target)."
The entire country should say that we gave a very tough fight here, the spirited leader said.
People are ready to vote for Congress as there is a pent up anger against Modi here, but what the party needs to do is to approach voters and seek their blessings, Mistry further told his workers.