Barely an hour before Narendra Modi addresses a rally in the city, Haribhai Ahir, a tea vendor in Bhuj, the headquarters of north-western Gujarat’s Kutch district, declares his support for the BJP. “Our Prime Minister shares the same background as I,” he gushes. But Ahir has a word of caution for the PM: “If he doesn’t pay attention to the needs of the poor, they will teach him a lesson.”

In his address at the Lalan College Ground, however, Modi skirted local issues, choosing instead to focus on terrorism, national security and bashing the Congress.

In four out of the five elections since 1995, the Bhuj constituency has remained with the BJP. But this time, the Congress senses it is in with a chance. “There is a lot of anger in Kutch. In villages, there are no facilities for sanitation, mobile and internet connectivity. Where is the development? We didn’t hear anything from the Prime Minister on these issues,” said Adam Chaki, the Congress candidate from Bhuj constituency.

At the other end of Gujarat, in the southern city of Surat, which has 12 Assembly seats, the Congress is showing some new-found assertiveness, while the BJP is going all out to prevent a possible breach in its fortress.

The Congress displays energy and is banking on the might of the Patels, who have built the diamond and textile trade in Surat. They are seething over the damage wreaked by GST on the one hand, and the treatment meted out to their community on the other.

The Congress has pitched its tent in Kamrej, a constituency the BJP won in 2012 with 57.3 per cent of the vote. The Grand Old Party’s energy is very visible on streets where it could not open an election office in the past owing to the Patidars’ contempt.

But the BJP’s resolve to hold on to the Diamond City is not to be underestimated. On Sunday, the party fielded Union Ministers Arun Jaitley and Dharmendra Pradhan, actor and MP Paresh Rawal and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to hold corner meetings and public rallies around Surat. The Prime Minister followed up with a rally the next day.

The BJP has also changed as many as eight of its 12 sitting MLAs to fight anti-incumbency, although they had secured over 50 per cent of the vote in 2012.