Ahmedabad: If the Congress's performance in the 2017 Gujarat Assembly polls was any indication, the BJP may have to sweat it out in at least seven Lok Sabha seats, most of them in its bastion Saurashtra.
In the Assembly elections, the Congress won 77 seats, improving its tally by 16 seats in the 182-member House. The BJP was restricted at 99, the party's worst performance in the last two decades.
The Congress bagged 30 of the 54 seats in the Saurashtra-Kutch region.
The Assembly poll results came as a shot in the arm for the opposition party after it drew a blank in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and the BJP won all 26 seats in the state.
Congress leaders are confident that the party might wrest at least four Lok Sabha seats in the Saurashtra region -- Amreli, Junagadh, Botad and Surendranagar -- from the BJP.
The Congress is also betting big on Anand in central Gujarat and Banaskantha and Patan in north Gujarat. It is also eyeing Dahod, Chhota Udepur, Sabarkantha and Patan.
"People in Saurashtra supported us overwhelmingly in the 2017 elections, as a result of which we won a significant number of seats in the region. This is clearly going to be a factor in the Lok Sabha election," Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi said.
"We expect to gain four-five seats from that region," he said.
In Saurashtra, the BJP is struggling with the perception that it failed to reach out to people affected by 2016 floods.
Doshi said the Congress hopes to win at least 12-13 Lok Sabha seats in Gujarat -- the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The renewed enthusiasm of the opposition party comes from the fact that it had bagged eight out of the nine assembly seats in Junagadh and Gir-Somnath districts in Saurashtra.
By highlighting issues like farm distress and Patidar agitation, the Congress won all the five assembly segments in Amreli parliamentary constituency in 2017.
Surendranagar is another Lok Sabha constituency where agriculture issues remain a dominant factor.
The Congress holds four of the five assembly constituencies in this seat dominated by the Koli community.
In Banaskantha, it holds five of the seven assembly segments mainly dominated by small and marginal farmers.
The welfare of farmers dependent on cattle rearing and dairy could also emerge as a major poll plank.
The Congress is also counting on Patidar votes.
The mercantile community has been a traditional supporter of the BJP, but there have been indications that the opposition party has managed to win them over, at least in some regions.
In Banaskantha, Thakor and Patidar communities supported the Congress in the 2017 assembly polls.
Prominent Patidar and Thakor leaders, Hardik Patel and Alpesh Thakor respectively, are also part of the grand old party.
Out of the seven assembly segments in Sabarkantha, a Congress bastion till 2009, the party currently holds four seats.
In Patan, a seat dominated by members of Thakor and Patidar communities, the BJP and the Congress hold three seats each out of the total seven.
In Anand, the Congress has announced the candidature of former state chief Bharatsinh Solanki. He had won the seat in 2009. The Congress holds five of the eight assembly seats in Anand.
However, the Congress has its own share of troubles, including the defection of its MLAs to the BJP.
In the recent past, five Congress MLAs have defected to the BJP.
Among them is Koli leader Kunvarji Bavaliya, who won the bypoll from Jasdan assembly seat in Rajkot after joining the ruling party.
Jawahar Chavda and Vallabh Dharaviya, who joined the BJP after resigning as Congress MLAs, hail from Junagadh and Jamnagar, respectively, in Saurashtra.
Polling for all 26 Lok Sabha seats in Gujarat will be held on April 23. The results will be announced on May 23.